Zenimax Hungrily Eyes the Facebook Fortune
In the next two weeks Oculus Rift may be about to have its Nick Denton moment. When Facebook first announced the Oculus Rift acquisition for a colossal two billion dollars it was pretty obviously a bad investment. This fact has been supported by the Occulus Rift’s abject failure to launch as a commercial product, but never in one’s wildest dreams was it ever imagined the extent to which the company turned out to be a wet fart in the face of giant autist, Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook apparently waved through the Oculus acquisition in just a weekend, eschewing almost any semblance of due diligence, and it shows. John Carmack was involved with Oculus Rift for much of its development, and took on a position as the company’s CTO in August of 2013, which was several months before he quit as an employee of of Id in November of that same year. Zenimax did not seem to much care about Carmack’s involvement with Oculus back when it was just some rinky dink Kickstarter project, and they did not move to go after the company following Carmack’s resignation – however when Facebook Acquired Oculus in March of 2014 Zenimax suddenly smelled money to be made and scrambled their attack lawyers to go after a massive payout.
This week both the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments, and in the next few weeks the jury is expected to reach a verdict. Zenimax is seeking a payout of two billion dollars in compensation, and a further two billion dollars in punitive damages – so this trial could end up costing Mark Zuckerberg twice the amount he actually overpaid for the company. The trial will likely hinge on two factors. Firstly, whether any of the code for Doom 3: VR and Rage: VR was used in the Oculus Rift’s code. And secondly, whether John Carmack’s employment contract gave Zenimax the rights to any intellectual property that he may have produced outside of office hours.
Carmack has admitted during trial to stealing code that he helped develop during his exit from Id, yet one is uncertain whether that will do for Oculus if said code cannot be found within the Oculus Rift codebase. One would think that if evidence of Id code cannot be found within the Oculus firmware then all liability for Carmack’s actions would rest on Carmack’s shoulders alone – but then one is not a corporate lawyer. That being said, admission of an employee to stealing intellectual property does not look real good to a jury, and is likely to colour all other evidence presented. Comparatively, one would say that Carmack’s after hours work poses less of a liability, since Facebook have decided to fight this rather than settle – meaning that they are likely comfortable that Carmack’s contract did not forbid him from participating in contributing to Oculus. Carmack has had a long history of working on outside collaborative projects, which is where many of his technical innovations have come from – so if he has not had to sign a new employment contract since the Zenimax acquisition of Id then he may be in the clear in this regard.
This author does not possess nearly enough information to determine which way the case will go, but it does seem at least somewhat likely that Oculus will be sent to the knackery. Normally one shies away from throwing in with rank opportunists, but the prospect of this striking a mortal blow to VR while at the same time curbing Cuckerberg’s political aspirations is just too much to resist, so best of luck to Zenimax in the coming weeks – one hopes they make out like bandits! Hopefully they are given ownership of the rights to the technology powering Oculus Rift, and then decide to do precisely nothing with it.
Hypocrite Nintendo Sells Illegally Dumped ROMs
Nintendo hates emulation. Despises it in fact. Companies that are in their prime might not put too much consideration into the existence of emulators, yet has-been companies like Nintendo who are still living on past glories jealously guard their old games like a dragon sitting on a pile of gold. Nintendo views the availability of their older games for people to freely play as something which actively devalues their IPs, and they cannot be having that at a time when they are planning to allow Switch owners to demo one NES game a month in exchange for a monthly subscription!
“The introduction of emulators created to play illegally copied Nintendo software represents the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers. As is the case with any business or industry, when its products become available for free, the revenue stream supporting that industry is threatened. Such emulators have the potential to significantly damage a worldwide entertainment software industry which generates over $15 billion annually, and tens of thousands of jobs.”
Yes, the creation of emulators to play old games is literally the worst thing ever, which is exactly why one so often hears companies that are not Nintendo complain about those dang emulator enthusiasts – oh wait, that is not something that actually happens. EA do not much care if a retro gamer downloads a ROM of Road Rash because they have already made their money on that title, and they have new games that they wish to sell to people. It is only companies in deep decline which tend to be this backward looking. Companies like Nintendo. How many times must users buy the same NES ROM across successive Nintendo consoles before the company will be satisfied?
Nintendo hates emulation. Despises it in fact. But not so much as to turn up their noses at the prospect of saving themselves a bit of effort by downloading an illegally dumped ROM directly from the internet, and then uploading it for their customers to purchase from them. It would appear that the big N is not above a little hypocrisy. This week somebody using a hex editor to mess around with the Wii Virtual Console release of Super Mario Bros. discovered a line of header text for an early NES emulator called iNES. These findings were then confirmed by Eurogamer, who further revealed that the ROM Nintendo was selling was identical to one that is in wide circulation among online emulation sites. ROM dumps are like fingerprints in that they are all slightly different, meaning that Nintendo have been caught making use of illegal ROM-sharing sites.
Fantastic! Way to really take the high moral ground and stick it to the pirates, Nintendo! Apparently Emuparadise and Romnation are so user friendly that even Nintendo uses them! It actually makes a lot of good sense to use existing ROM dumps instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and Nintendo has every right to use one of their pirated IP in any way they see fit, but the contradiction between Nintendo’s corporate beliefs and their actual practices is just too damn high. They cannot credibly forbid users from downloading ROMs and then turn around and do exactly the same thing. When asked for a statement Nintendo responded that the company does not download pirated ROMs. Of course that is the Nintendo response when they think that everybody is as stupid and gullible as their own fanboys; smh, fam – their SNES ROM-wrapper is probably just ZSNES!
Lying With Partial Truths
The PS4 has been outpacing the PS2’s sales pretty much since launch, a fact that Sony is always happy to acknowledge. Earlier this month Kaz Harai announced that after just 37 months at retail the PS4’s sales figures stand at a massive 53.4 million units. Sony later went on to confirm that during this period the Ps4 the PS4 has managed to sell a massive 409.1 million units of software sales, making for a huge attach-rate of 7.66 games sold for every console purchased. By contrast the PS2 had an attach-rate of just 6.2 games at the point where it sold 50 million units of hardware.
This author knows what readers are thinking: more games sold than the PS2, how? The PS2 had one of the greatest software libraries of all time, while the PS4’s software library is abject shit for the most part. How could the PS2’s library of games measure up unfavourably to to the PS4, especially in the early years? Well, as it turns out nothing too crazy is going on, as Sony is not providing people with the full context of their market position. First and foremost, the PS4 has a much firmer domination of the market, not due to its relative virtues, but through a lack of competition among rival platforms.
In the PS2 era there used to be a vast diversity in console libraries, which gave consumers a greater choice of which console to buy, and gave multi-console owners a greater incentive to spend their time with non-Sony titles. The Xbox was a powerhouse for online gaming, while the GameCube had a stronger library of exclusives than the Wii, and later Wii U – and both consoles were much more powerful than the PS2. For single console owners this meant that there were viable alternatives for people who were unexcited by the genres that were popular on the PS2. For the owners of multiple consoles this meant that an individual might opt to play Knights of the Old Republic or Twin Snakes instead of the latest PS2 exclusive. These were the days when it made sense to own all three of the competing consoles. By contrast there is now effectively no reason to own an Xbox One; all Xbox One third party software is also on the PS4, but not all PS4 third party software is on the Xbox One – and the PS4 is just a more capable system in general. As for the Wii U, Nintendo platforms still have a line-up of console exclusives, but they are nowhere near as good as the GameCube library. Moreover, the Wii U is vastly underpowered compared to the PS4, which was certainly not the case with the GameCube relative to the PS4. There is still a reason to own Nintendo platforms as secondary consoles, but the allure is nowhere near as strong.
Beyond the greater relative market strength of Sony’s PS4, there is also the pricing of software to consider. During the PS2 era the vast majority of available software was produced by AAA studios and sold for full price – with the majority of budget software being surplus stock of games which had launched for full price, before being discounted. Contrast this with today where the vast majority of PS4 software is produced by indy studios, and costs $20 or less.
Ultimately the position of the PS4 is nowhere near comparable to the PS2. for the multiple reasons stated above, the attach-rate of 6.2 games on the PS2 is worth far more than the attach-rate of 7.66 games on the PS4, given that the PS2 faced far sterner competition, and the games in question were far less likely to be throw-away downloadable titles. Sony are very happy to wax lyrical about how the success of the PS4 is unprecedented within the industry, but very rarely are they telling people the full story.