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Archive for August, 2019

Google will not be the only Internet giant undergoing scrutiny for its recent advertising purchases. The Federal Trade Commission has decided to investigate Microsoft and Yahoo's recent acquisitions as well. Microsoft, which recently purchased online marketing company aQuantive for $6 billion, and Yahoo, which dropped a cool $680 million for 80 percent of ad firm Right Media that it didn't already control, will both be the subjects of an antitrust review by the FTC. HangZhou Night Net

Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick is getting a full, formal investigation from the FTC after consumer advocates raised concerns over data privacy. Other groups, such as AT&T and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, have called on the FTC and Department of Justice to closely scrutinize the acquisitions over antitrust concerns. In the wake of the advertising acquisition frenzy, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo now control a sizable chunk of the online ad market, a development that has raised concerns not at only other ad firms, but also at companies that rely on a robust ad market.

The Microsoft and Yahoo deals do not appear to be getting the same level of scrutiny from the FTC—at least not yet. So far, the FTC has not made "second requests" of the companies for more data, a move that would indicate a more detailed investigation would be forthcoming.

A Microsoft spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal (subscription) that his company would cooperate fully with the FTC, adding that Microsoft "look[s] forward to addressing any questions the FTC may have."

Unlike the Google investigation, which was first centered around privacy concerns and has since expanded to include the antitrust angle, the FTC's decision to look at Microsoft and Yahoo centers around competitive concerns. Ironically, Microsoft pressured the US government to oppose the Google-DoubleClick deal for the many of the same reasons that the FTC is now looking at the Microsoft-aQuantive deal.

The sales boost Sony was hoping for hasn't come through yet, as the May NPD numbers show an ever-dominant Nintendo sitting on its perch far above the rest of the pack, with the Xbox 360 in distant second, and the PS3 trailing everyone by a significant margin. HangZhou Night Net

As you know, Nintendo absolutely owned the first quarter of the year, and with 338,000 more Wii consoles sold in May, the sales show no sign of slowing down. Still, the DS took top honors, with 423,000 units sold. These amounts almost look anomalous, for the sales of every other system are so far below Nintendo's preternatural numbers. As this trend continues month after month, Nintendo's domination is becoming a fact of life. When will it end?

The 360 sold a disappointing 154,900 units, down from April's 174,000. The system has a strong library of games with many standout hits, but increasing evidence of a price drop as well as widespread Internet complaints of reliability issues may be keeping the system from selling in higher numbers. Whether or not a price reduction is in the works, it may be what Microsoft needs to get more customers interested in the system.

The news is mixed for Sony this month. The PSP's price reduction paid off big; the system sold 221,120 units in May to eclipse even the PlayStation 2, which sold 187,800. These are strong numbers, and the PlayStation 2 is still seeing impressive exclusive content in games like Odin Sphere. The bad news is that the PlayStation 3 sold an abysmal 81,600 units in the same time frame. Sony is trying to leverage the PSP's relative success to boost PlayStation 3 sales numbers, but without a price drop and more exclusive games, the system is having a rough time fitting into the competitive hardware market. Luckily, Sony is beginning to hint at a price drop, and with Metal Gear Solid 4, Lair, and Final Fantasy still exclusive, things could look up this holiday season.

To date video games sales are up 47 percent from last year, but a closer look at the numbers shows that only Nintendo systems and Sony's last-generation hardware are moving in real volume. While Microsoft may try to hang on to its current price points as long as it can, at this point it looks like only a price drop will help it shift more units. If the company is able to reduce the price of their hardware near the release of Halo 3, it would be a one-two punch that could send sales skyrocketing during the holiday rush. Sony has a more complicated road ahead, with a price drop being almost essential to staying competitive while it tries to turn its strengths with the PS2 and PSP business into PS3 sales. Fortunately, it looks like one is on the way. Nintendo is in an enviable position: all it needs to do is worry about getting enough hardware into the market to meet demand.

For the more than nine years that Ars Technica has been publishing online, we've been outspoken when it comes to the lack of balance between the threat of piracy (which is always overstated) and the "solutions" to piracy (which are often draconian) that some copyright holders demand. Whether it's laws that would turn the possession of software into a crime, completely baked piracy reports, or yet another law meant to criminalize civil infractions, we've cast a critical eye on an industry that defines solipsism. HangZhou Night Net

And, everyone once and while, we're accused of hyperbole—of exaggerating our objections. That's why it's with both a grin and a lonely tear that I report to you the latest ridiculous claim from the copyright-trumps-all brigade.

NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton suggests that society wastes entirely too much money policing crimes like burglary, fraud, and bank-robbing when it should be doing something about piracy instead.

"Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned," Cotton said. "If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year." Cotton's comments come in Paul Sweeting's report on Hollywood's latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill.

There are two obvious rejoinders to such a ridiculous statement. The first is that "hundreds of billions of dollars a year" is a myth. The MPAA's own cherry-picked study from Smith Barney in 2005 put their annual loss at less than $6 billion, and while the music and software industries also like to publish trumped-up claims, the figures are nowhere near hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

The second objection, of course, is that the traditional crimes Cotton describes often involve the destruction of people's lives along with property. Burglaries can result in homicide, as can fraud (ask the preacher's wife), while bank robbery is, without a doubt, a dangerous game. Those crimes also typically involve real property. For better or for worse, real property should not be confused with intellectual property, which is not subject to the same rules of scarcity. Stopping a bank heist is, without a doubt, a far more important matter than stopping the bootlegging of Gigli or Spider-Man 3. Chances are you would prefer that the cops spend their efforts protecting people from rampant home burglaries than chasing down kids with pirated music on their iPods.

Regardless, Cotton and his Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy are seeking to change federal law enforcement emphasis so that intellectual property crimes are given priority over other kinds of crime… a realignment, to play off Cotton's statement. Battling organized crime is hardly objectionable, and we hope the coalition sees success in taking down the profiteers of piracy. Offending the public with yet more lies and hyperbole isn't going to curry much favor, however.

HangZhou Night Net

While I've played the original Prince of Persia a few times in passing, Prince of Persia Classic on the 360 Live Arcade is the first time I've sat down and seriously gave the game a chance. At $10, it's on the higher end of Arcade pricing, but the game instantly impresses with beautiful graphics and animation, as well as honest to goodness cut scenes. The more I played, the more I started to think that the $10 price wasn't that high after all; this is a game with a solid design foundation, and the cosmetic makeover will impress even jaded gamers.

The game has a great set up. The evil vizier Jaffar has given the princess a choice: either marry him so he can grab control of the throne, or she dies. She has one hour to make up her mind. The princess' real man is locked deep in the dungeons, and has to escape to save her. You're the knight in shining…well, hammer pants, fighting against both the bad guys and time to reach the princess and save her. The game retains the smooth animations from previous iterations of the franchise; it's almost as fun to simply run around and backflip across chasms and run up the walls before springing to a hard-to-reach area as it is to get to the end of each level. Still, you have that clock counting down through the entire game; a constant reminder to hurry.

Most of the game involves finding your way out of each level and moving onto the next one, and the addition of waypoints make the game easy to pick up and play—you won't have to put a solid hour into the session to have any hope of beating it. Prince of Persia also has a fun sword-fighting system where you have to parry and thrust your way to victory. Watching the well-animated characters clang their swords together is quite the thrill, even if the fighting can be frustrating before you master the nuance of combat.

By definition, the game is only an hour long, but you can also unlock time trial and survival modes, and for the hyper competitive this is a great game to perfect a speed run. For the more casual fan, this is an inviting game that shows how well the original Prince of Persia still stands up to modern games. If you've never played the original, you're in for quite the treat.