Microsoft’s Xbox One started selling today in thousands of Chinese stores, the first videogame console legally available in the country since 2000. Now comes the hard part, figuring out what games will actually pass muster with China’s stringent censorship rules on things like anti-authoritarian behavior, violence, criminality and even fantasy and science-fiction themes.
The tight rules mean no Destiny, no Call of Duty and so definitely no Grand Theft Auto, all big-selling franchises in the United States. What’s left? So far, just 10 titles, including decidedly non-violent, non-controversial fare such as Forza Motorsport 5 and Zoo Tycoon.
Microsoft and its Chinese partner are working on government approvals for about 70 more titles, which may help entice Chinese buyers who have to pay about $700 for a Xbox One (compared to $499 in the United States).
But even with more titles, Microsoft will face the challenge of educating Chinese gamers who’ve done without consoles (legally anyway) for a decade and a half to try that world. Years of playing games built for smartphones and tablets and social-media platforms such as Kakao have hardly trained them to value the console gaming experience.
The payoff of converting players to console is likely to be worth it, though: analysts tab the Chinese game market at No. 3 in the world behind the U.S. and Japan, with an estimated $18 billion in revenues this year. And goodness knows Microsoft could use a win in a big market after its bumpy first year with the Xbox One.
Sony is also pursuing the process of selling its PS4 in the market. Nintendo reportedly is continuing to mull its options.
Video Streaming App Hang w/ To Begin Sharing Ad Revenues With Creators
Hang w/, a site that streams live video to Android and iOS phones, Facebook and the web, will begin sharing ad revenues with its creators, creator MEDL Mobile announced. The move comes at a time when most social-media platforms other than YouTube don’t share revenues with creators who may have amassed audiences of millions of followers.
Beginning Nov. 3, the app’s broadcasters will get 25 percent of net ad revenues from pre- and post-roll ads wrapped around their live videos. That’s a considerably smaller share than what YouTube provides (55 percent), but far beyond just about everyone else. MEDL Mobile said it is also developing pay-per-view and subscription models for its creators, which would allow for more sophisticated economic models in the burgeoning online video space.
Just as importantly, these are live streams available on iOS and Android smartphones, Facebook and the web, as opposed to the billions of streams of previously recorded material available on YouTube through various devices. Google’s Hangouts technology is also creating a related service filled with live chat rooms, though with no revenue share and continuing uncertainty about the Google+ social network that it is part of.
Separately, the gamer-oriented live-streaming platform Twitch recently sold for nearly $1 billion to Amazon (after being courted heavily by Google), essentially proving the booming market for live streaming going forward.
Early investors in Hang w/ include heavyweight pop producer Timbaland (Timothy Mosley). Site stars include such notables as 50 Cent, Ali Landry, Cheech and Chong, Jamie Kennedy, Jared Leto, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Orlando, Terrell Owens and UFC. More information about the app can be found at www.hangwith.com
Amazon Closes Twitch Deal
Speaking of Twitch, Amazon said in an SEC filing that it has closed the deal to acquire the live-streaming company for $970 million. With 55 million monthly users, Twitch is one of the biggest sources of live video on the Internet.
Sharing on Twitch is built into both the Xbox One and Sony’s PS4, making it extremely easy to let others watch as a game unfolds. Other sources of popular content on the site include professional gamers, such as League of Legends, how-to videos and much much more.
From the Amazon side, the acquisition both heats up its budding competition with Google for online creators and launches it headlong into another media segment where it previously had little presence. How Amazon layers its game-selling retail operations, Prime service and more with Twitch may be one of the more interesting tech business challenges of the next year or two.
BitTorrent Launches Paywall With Radiohead Leader’s New Album
BitTorrent, the company behind the world’s leading technology for sharing pirated downloads of music and video, is now trying to prove it can play on the legal side, launching its new paywall technology with the latest album from Thom Yorke, the singer for Radiohead.
The album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, is bundled on BitTorrent, similar to what the company has previously done in tests for legal distribution of trailers and other media content. In this case, however, most of the album is locked behind a paywall technology. Download the package and get one song and its video for free. Pay $6 and you get seven more Yorke songs and cover art.
It’s way too early to assess whether this approach will work, but I have to admit it’s a fascinating next step for BitTorrent, which has labored long and hard to persuade Hollywood that it’s not Media Enemy No. 1. If the tech actually delivers a simplified distribution platform (especially one where most costs are offloaded to participating users) and a way to legally get paid, BitTorrent might finally get to come in from the cold of a chilly Hollywood.
As Yorke said in a statement: “If it works well, it could be an effective way of handing some control of Internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.”