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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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February 2017

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ZeniMax Goes for Oculus' Throat; Files Worldwide Injunction

February 27, 2017

The ongoing drama between ZeniMax and Oculus / Facebook is still indeed ongoing, from recent reports, and now a new development has cropped up that is nothing short of earth-shattering. ZeniMax has filed a new injunction against Oculus, complete with a recommendation that, if followed, would basically pull Oculus out of the market for a good long while to come.

The recommendation with the injunction--filed just Thursday--proposes that Oculus be "...permanently enjoined, on a worldwide basis, from using...any of the Copyrighted materials, including but not limited to  (i) system software for Oculus PC (including the Oculus PC SDK); (ii) system software for Oculus Mobile (including the Oculus Mobile SDK); (iii) Oculus integration with the Epic Games Unreal Engine; and (iv) Oculus integration with the Unity Technologies Unity Game Engine."

Naturally, Facebook--who likely has entire battalions of lawyers trained for purposes just like this--responded to UploadVR, suggesting the filing was both "legally flawed" and "factually unwarranted."

This follows a huge blow to Oculus / Facebook, which came in the form of a $500 million verdict in ZeniMax's favor in the recent civil suit over ZeniMax's copyrights.

However, not everyone believes this will go off as planned; IP law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP partner Joshua Rich noted that the jury verdict might actually hurt ZeniMax's chances of getting that injunction passed. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm struggling through the parsing here somewhat, but basically, the jury DID find that Oculus broke a non-disclosure agreement, and did make use of code portions and logos. That same jury, however, rejected claims that Oculus had directly taken "trade secrets," a point that would have made ZeniMax's case for an injunction much stronger.

Even Gabe Newell Thinks VR Might Be a Failure

February 20, 2017

Hearing Gabe Newell describe virtual reality (VR) as a possible "failure" is like hearing Henry Ford suggest that the car could be completely useless against the longer-lived slower pace of horses. Yet Newell has a point here, and it's one he made recently.

Valve has been putting a lot of time and resources--read: money--into the SteamVR project as well as the HTC Vive headset, and to acknowledge that such efforts could be largely in vain is about as unnerving as it is, well, accurate.

Though Newell described himself and his company as "optimistic," noting that VR itself was "going great" and " a way that's consistent with our expectations", Newell also noted that the company was prepared for a catastrophic failure, noting that "We're also pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure."

Newell took predictions like former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe's, which expected "north of a million sales" for the first release of the Oculus Rift, and ramping that up to "hopefully many millions" for the second-generation version, with a clear grain of salt easily the size of a baby's head. The major problems with the concept are just in place now as they ever were.

VR requires some pretty impressive muscle in order to operate, which means a hefty expense out the door before one even gets hands on a VR system.

Valve Working on Console Development, Finding it Frustrating

February 14, 2017

For console gamers out there, one of the most frustrating things around is seeing lists of games going to PC that, with seemingly little tweaks, could go to consoles as well, but for reasons unclear to the console gamer, don't. Those frustrations seem to be shared by developers--particularly Valve--but for wholly different reasons.

Valve head Gabe Newell was widely known for saying that he didn't have an interest in returning to the "walled garden" of console development, but a lot of his complaints don't seem to have quite the same ring of truth they did back when he made a foray into that garden with the Xbox 360 and PS3 generations.

While issues of product planning played a major role in the earlier generations, particularly when it comes to free-to-play games, it's obvious that the free-to-play model has come into its own in the console market.

Newell also noted that issues of bureaucracy--"red tape" proved especially annoying--often prevented games from releasing quickly.

E3 Goes into Wide Release This Year

February 13, 2017

E3 was always something of a gamed system, according to reports, especially given the growing proliferation of independently-operated games media stations. Now, however, E3 is changing the way it's operating, and for the first time ever, officially opening up the show floor to incoming members of the public.

Those concerned about massive new crowds need not be; the operation is running essentially on a lottery system run on a first-come-first-serve basis. Starting February 13 at high noon Eastern time, E3's parent organization, the Entertainment Software Association, will sell 15,000 "consumer passes". The first 1,000 will sell for $149, while the remaining 14,000 will sell for $249.

Businesses concerned that this will cheapen the value of their current passes need not be; the business and press pass holders will have a specific entrance point just for them, a "VIP Business Lounge", and several other perks.

Nintendo Switch Offers Value in Online Connection

February 7, 2017

Nintendo's outings in the console market have been less than well received lately, with the company's fates collapsing ever since the release of the groundbreaking Wii system. Now, Nintendo will have to compete against systems commonly regarded as more powerful than its own releases at the outset, and Nintendo's looking to provide value in other areas, like the online connection cost.

The new reports suggest that Nintendo Switch will allow users to play online for about half the cost of Microsoft and Sony alternatives, running under $30 a year. That's going to represent a significant value for Nintendo gamers, and one that might give it an edge in the market going forward.

Since some of the Switch's biggest games--like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers--will require online play on at least some level (it's not known as yet just how much online connectivity will be required or if such connectivity will be charged for) to get the most out of them, being able to connect on a budget will be a welcome development if it goes in the direction it might.

There's also been some discussion over Nintendo's upcoming VR plans, particularly the use of the new Joy-Con controllers that the Switch is slated to use. It's not much discussion as yet--it's mostly centered around one quote from Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima--but notes that Nintendo's actively working on "...resolv(ing) the issues with playing comfortably for long hours..." which will then be put into play as soon as possible.

Granted, most probably aren't framing their buying decisions on the ongoing costs of connection.

PS4 Pro's Boost Mode May Give it a Market Edge

February 6, 2017

We're coming to a very strange time in the console gaming market, with a new version of the PS4--the PS4 Pro--already on hand and the Xbox Project Scorpio poised for launch. Even Nintendo's bringing out a new console in the Switch, which will destabilize the market even further. That's prompting significant marketing efforts, and PlayStation's may have emerged with the new "Boost Mode" for PS4 Pro.

The new PS4 Pro option would actually deliver on a noteworthy proposition: to improve older games' performance without the need for patching or similar measures. Currently, reports note, getting the benefits of extra PS4 Pro hardware requires a little extra programming work in the form of patches.

Smells Like Virtual Reality: Vaqso Poised to Add Smell to VR

February 1, 2017

Recently, the folks at Vaqso unveiled a device that would offer a whole new dimension to virtual reality: smell. Originally designed as a means to promote restaurants with virtual reality displays including smell, the system is taking on some potential new uses as well.

The Vaqso system is approximately the same length as a Snickers bar, reports note, and attaches readily to several currently-available head-mounted display systems. It uses a set of different odor cartridges--currently three types exist, but that number may reach 10 by the time development has concluded--and an internal fan creates stronger and weaker smells by adjusting its rate of operation to deliver smell.

An additional application programming interface (API) makes it easier to connect Vaqso's smell-based interface with newly-built games, making it entirely possible to smell what's going on in a game to at least some degree.

Vaqso isn't the first to do this--Noslus Rift and Feelreal already exist in the market--but Vaqso can offer multiple different odors, something that its competitors can't. Throw in Vaqso's compatibility with a variety of different heads-up displays and it gives the system a clear market edge.

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