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Google hijacks the $180 billion gaming industry

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James Francis.

James Francis.

Earlier this week Google employees took to the stage at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), historically the place to gain support among the people who create video games. Microsoft set this trend when it used GDC to launch the Xbox, then a total upstart and unlikely competitor to Sony’s unassailable Playstation platform.

That announcement resulted in a radical change to the console and ultimately video gaming market. Google’s revelation could be even more tectonic. If – and I’ll get to that later – they can pull it off, it could be the end of the video game industry as we know it

Google’s plan

Google’s attempt to take over video games is called Stadia. At face value, it’s a streaming service. Players log in from any machine with a sufficient broadband connection. They can then play the game locally, but all of the actual processing is being done in Google’s mighty datacentre empire. These visuals are streamed to the player, whose responding actions are sent back to the service. If it happens at a low-enough latency, the experience should rival that of playing a game on a local machine. It’s essentially gaming as a web service.

The advantage Google has here is its global network. A map shown during the conference announcements reveal points of presence across the world, including South Africa, and Google mentioned edge networking technologies at play here. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that this might be a viable service even for people on lower speed connections, at least fixed-line ones such as ADSL. Much more doubtful is if such a service could ever work on the uneven latencies of mobile broadband other than 5G.

There is no need to download a game nor are there client-side operating system limitation. Stadia will be cross-platform in the way Netflix is cross-platform. Providing a device can run the Stadia platform – presumably an app or browser portal – it should be able to play the game presuming it was designed for that platform. Realistically a PC action game won’t suddenly play seamlessly on a mobile device. But such seamless crossovers are now feasible and something Google highlighted.

Game over?

Other than the development studios creating games and the publisher funding them, Stadia threatens just about every other part of the gaming world.

Google will run the games on its servers. That means that the customer machines will not need specialised hardware such as graphics cards or large amounts of memory. One of the machines at the GDC demo intentionally had the lowest specifications they could find. It also means bespoke consoles are redundant and Stadia voids the need for games on mobile app stores.

This is Gaming-as-a-Service. You won’t need the hardware, the downloads or to overcome any of the expensive barriers that kept many at bay from video games. The service will be able to facilitate everything from a single player to online massive multiplayer to playing four people on the same TV. It will go beyond that, using the massive scale of the Google network to add unmatched processing and bandwidth to game development. And it already has started attracting the crucial ingredient to any successful gaming takeover: developer support.

That Stadia appears to have and, providing it’s easy to develop for, Stadia can quickly expand to offer original and exclusive game content. Everyone outside the developer/publisher ecosystem – hardware sellers, console makers, mobile app stores, distributors, retailers – will be cut out of the loop.

In what seems a little savage for how it cuts off the competition, Stadia makes it very easy to stream onto Youtube and hasn’t announced any support for services such as Twitch. Considering some of the biggest Youtube stars are gamers, this is a cop in its own right.

Difficulty settings

Stadia is not the first attempt to stream gaming in this fashion, but nothing before it had remotely the skills, money and infrastructure. If Google is even partially successful, this will cause ripples in the market. What could hamper it?

There is the question of how reluctant the market will be. Some great gaming ambitions have failed from lacking the gaming industry’s backing. Stadia supports common gaming development standards that will be attractive to many developers, while its deep pockets can buy many powerful friends such as key publishers. It is already clearly comfortable with the likes of Ubisoft and Bethesda.

But that’s not nearly enough, nor cheap: Games can retail for $60 a copy in the US and over R1,000 locally. That’s a lot of publishers stand to lose if they don’t get a good cut.

Streaming requires serious scale combined with top-line offerings to be successful, let alone profitable. Netflix is currently in a perpetual loop of earn-and-spend as it pays lavishly both for distribution rights and making its own content, all to keep growing its business with subscribers and reduce churn.

Stadia will have the same issue: a never-ending race for content and performance that swells its user ranks. Video games can comfortably cost as much as a blockbuster movie to make, yet subscription rates should be kept low to be attractive. This may be a very low-margin business for Google and take years to realise a good profit. It will be interesting to see how Google reports Stadia numbers.

Performance is also key. Games operate in real-time and a good user experience is arguably the most important element to any successful game. While some games are suited for possible delays, many popular titles require highly reactive control. Even Netflix can suffer a few swirling buffer circles upon its viewers. Stadia won’t be afforded the same.

Finally, for all of its computational girth, what Google is tackling here is not small. Video games at scale will be a terrific challenge for their operations. It will consume a lot of their resources and ensuring local network performance will be absolutely critical. It reminds me of a Richard Branson joke I often retell: How do you become a millionaire? Be a billionaire and buy an airline.

Maybe Stadia will be Google’s airline: a massive land grab that, though smart, could also be dreadfully expensive. But what Stadia represents is sufficient to blow the tyres out of the current $180 billion video game industry, including mobile games. Not just stores or just hardware makers, but all of it.

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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