Microsoft Get Told ‘Nein’
It was blue balls for Microsoft this week, as their semi-flaccid legal defence was promptly spat out of a German court, and they were left to walk off a rather unsatisfying bollocksing. In summary, it was determined that Microsoft had infringed upon two Motorola patents necessary to provide H.264 video coding and playback, and thus Motorola were awarded an injunction against Microsoft’s selling of the Windows 7 operating system and their XBox 360 console in German territories – a move which could see Microsoft recalling and destroying all such product if Motorola elect to enforce the injunction. It would seem that Microsoft have been given a stay of execution of sorts, with a US court banning Motorola from enforcing the action until it can deliberate upon this turn of events next week, yet this respite promises to be fleeting.
Motorola’s stance in the face of these favourable findings appears at first glance to be a reasonable one – stating that they have no problem with Microsoft using their intellectual property provided that they are remunerated with a nominal fee each time it is used – yet the complexion of the situation begins to look a little different when one considers that Motorola are currently fighting fifty discrete licensing claims with respect to Microsoft’s product. Microsoft have estimated that it would cost them four billion dollars annually to purchase all of the licenses that Motorola are demanding of them. Microsoft for their part are sounding relatively bullish about their prospects for an appeal, stating: “This is one step in a long process, and we are confident that Motorola will eventually be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available of fair and reasonable terms for the benefit of consumers who enjoy video on the web. Motorola is prohibited from acting on today’s decision, and our business in Germany will continue as usual while we appeal this decision and pursue the fundamental issue of Motorola’s broken promise.” While one finds the prospect of Microsoft being locked out of the German market to be more than agreeable, it is nonetheless disheartening to bear witness to yet another episode of the tit-for-tat bullshit that is the international patent wars.
FPS Games No Longer Profitable – True Fact
FPS video games ceased to be profitable this week with the frank admission from Steve Ellis that no one actually buys FPS games unless they are Call of Duty titles. Ellis who co-founded Free Radical Design, makers of the well received FPS game Haze, claims that in 2008 (following the release of Haze) no publisher was willing to sign up for bankrolling Timesplitters 4 on account of the game not adhering to the Call of Duty template. “I spent the whole of 2008 going round talking to publishers trying to sign up Timesplitters 4, there just isn’t the interest there in doing anything that tries to step away from the rules of the genre – no one wants to do something that’s quirky and different, because it’s too much of a risk. And a large part of that is the cost of doing it.”
It is quite unthinkable that a team with such an illustrious game catalogue as Free Radical, the masterminds behind Second Sight, could not manage to get such a promising project green-lit, but Ellis explains “Nobody really buys any FPSes unless they’re called Call of Duty. I guess Battlefield did okay, but aside from that pretty much every FPS loses money. I mean, [look at] Crysis 2: great game, but there’s no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs.”
It really is quite upsetting that Crysis 2 was unable to turn a profit despite shifting 2.5 million copies – but then one supposes that this is the reason that no one is making FPS games any more. Oh well, C’est la vie Crysis 3, it was not to be.
Microsoft to release $99 XBox (not in Germany) – there is a catch
In a move that would make any telemarketer proud, Microsoft looks to be getting ready to announce an XBox 360/Kinect bundle for the low, low price of $99 – but there is one small catch. A $99 XBox may look like a tantalising prospect on the face of it, yet deals which appear too good to be true often are, and this XBox bundle comes with a $15 per month subscription fee for two years – an arrangement fettered with termination fees.
To the cash strapped gamer the ability to defer part of the payment for a new XBox might sound a tempting offer, but anyone would do well to consider what they are getting for money – A two year subscription would find the bundle costing a hefty $459. Consider further the fact that Microsoft are on the verge of releasing their XBox successor, and suddenly this does not appear to be such a good deal.
Given the timing, it seems likely that this bundle may in fact be the beta test for a possible XBox 720 pricing structure – this is an alarming prospect in itself if one considers the implications. If this pricing model proves successful will anyone even own their gaming consoles in ten years time, or will we have to lease them from the manufacturer?