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Report: Apple Is Trying to Get Newspapers to Fork Over Half of Revenue From Planned Subscription Service

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Tech giant Apple, which is trying to pivot to services as sales of some of its electronics slow, is reportedly working to launch a subscription-based news service that would get readers past paywalls at a discounted rate and share the revenue with publishers. But according to a Tuesday report in the Wall Street Journal, many of those publishers aren’t thrilled with those terms—especially because Apple wants half.

The subscription service has been called a “Netflix for news,” with sources telling the Journal that Apple’s negotiators have a planned price point of $10 a month to access an unlimited slew of content from participating publishers. Apple would keep around half of that, according to the Journal’s sources, and the rest of the earnings “would go into a pool that would be divided among publishers according to the amount of time users spend engaged with their articles.”

So Apple wants half. Then it wants everyone else to squabble over what’s left.

The paper wrote that some major outlets including the New York Times and Washington Post are balking at those proposed terms, including concerns about both the revenue-sharing arrangement and a possible loss of control over valuable subscriber data:

The New York Times and the Washington Post are among the major outlets that so far haven’t agreed to license their content to the service, in part because of concerns over the proposed terms, which haven’t been previously disclosed, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Talks are ongoing, and deals with the publishers could still be reached.

The Wall Street Journal also has concerns, but its recent conversations with Apple have been productive, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

Additional concerns include that Apple wants publishers to sign on for at least a year, and publishers are variously seeking shorter or longer deals, the Journal’s sources said.

It’s clear why publishers would be wary, and for a number of reasons. One is that many news organizations already got burned hard by Facebook, which has a powerful gatekeeper role in directing audiences to content, dominates online advertising alongside Google, and has launched several failed partnerships (such as Instant Articles) with them. Despite publishing an absolutely jaw-dropping amount of content for Facebook users, the publishers saw the resulting ad revenue get gobbled up by Facebook.

Another is that, as the Journal noted, many newspapers charge well over $10 a month for subscriptions—and selling them for pennies on the dollar, then also splitting such a huge portion of the revenue with Apple and other publishers, may be a really bad financial decision.

For example, it could undercut their subscriber base and give Apple more power to push them around. It’s also possible that the audience willing to pay for news is not going to go much higher from an Apple News partnership, in which case the publishers run a serious risk of cutting Apple in on revenue with nothing to show for it in return. Such a partnership may also, as with Facebook, promote a race to the bottom on competing for views in Apple’s walled garden.

As the Journal wrote, the three outlets mentioned in their report already have deals with Apple that include some free content, but seem much more generous at face value:

The three outlets already distribute a subset of their articles on Apple News, which readers can access free. News organizations keep 100% of the revenue from ads they sell for these articles, and they keep 70% of revenue from ads that appear alongside their articles that they don’t sell. Apple’s planned subscription service would dramatically expand access to those outlets, adding content that is currently behind paywalls.

Users can also subscribe to news organizations through Apple News; news organizations keep 70% of the subscription revenue for the first year and a larger portion after that.

As the Verge noted, Apple’s demands for gluttonous revenue-sharing arrangements have previously undermined its efforts to branch into TV, which the company has finally just decided to have a go at itself. But the pressure is on for Apple to reach some kind of deal, with BuzzFeed News reporting that sources say it plans a launch date on March 25.

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Shampoo magnate uses glasses-free 3D to push budget phones

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Rokit’s Io 3D and Io Pro 3D tout stereoscopy at a low price.

Remember how shampoo magnate John Paul DeJoria threw himself into the mobile world five years ago? He’s now offering smartphones — and they might be appealing if you find most budget phones a little boring. Rokit’s newly launched Io 3D and Io Pro 3D (above) both offer glasses-free 3D without the expense that usually comes with the tech. You won’t need to go to the length of buying a RED Hydrogen One just to bedazzle your friends. There’s even an “expansive” catalog of content to watch through an app that that hosts movies and other stereoscopic material.

Be ready for phones that are modest beyond the tentpole 3D feature. The Io 3D centers on a 5.45-inch, 1,440 x 720 display, a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, a rear 8-megapixel camera and a front 2-megapixel cam. Move to the Io Pro 3D and you’ll get a 6-inch 2,160 x 1,080 display, an eight-core 2GHz MediaTek chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, a hybrid 13MP and 2MP rear camera system and a front 8MP shooter. Don’t expect excitement when you’re not gawking at 3D footage, then, although you do curiously get a year’s worth of health care services and insurance coverage (including death) for free.

The price is competitive, at least. You can order the Io 3D now for $200 (£140), and the Io Pro 3D for $300 ($250). There’s also a plain 2D phone, the 5-inch Io Light ($90) for those that only need the basics. They may be tougher sells when handsets like the Moto G7 are more powerful overall, but consider this: if you ever lose interest in the 3D, you’re out considerably less money than you might be otherwise.

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God Of War Wins Game Of The Year At GDC Awards

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God of War wins big, again.

Sony’s PS4 exclusive action game God of War has won yet another Game of the Year award. Tonight at the Game Developers Choice Awards, Sony’s PS4 game went home with the top prize. This is just the latest win for God of War, as it also won Game of the Year at December’s The Game Awards and in February at the DICE Awards.

Other winners tonight included Celeste for Best Audio, Into the Breach for Best Design, and Red Dead Redemption 2 for Best Technology. Australian developer Mountains won Best Debut for Florence; that game also Best Mobile Game. Amy Hennig, an industry veteran who directed Uncharted, took home the Lifetime Achievement Award.

You can see a full rundown of the categories and winners at the bottom of this post.

“The Game Developers Choice Awards represent the most refined games of the year, and the sheer variety of games honored tonight showed that games can still represent wholly new and unique creative visions,” GDC general manager Katie Stern said in a statement.

“A number of independently developed titles like Celeste, Gris, and Florence helped prove how internal or deeply personal turmoil can make for massively appealing games for millions of fans. While games like God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 capture our imagination with poignant moments juxtaposed against epic tales of staggering scale and technical prowess. We embrace and accept all these amazingly creative works, and we’re proud to recognize these nominees and winners alike for the imagination and hard work that brought them here.”

Also at GDC this week, Google announced its new game-streaming technology, Stadia, which is set to launch later this year. Former Microsoft and Sony executive Phil Harrison is heading up the Stadia team, and he believes latency won’t be an issue.

GDC 2019 continues all week, leading directly into PAX East in Boston at the weekend, so keep checking back with GameSpot for lots more.

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Google Moves To Disrupt Video Games With Streaming, Studio

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Google set out to disrupt the video game world on Tuesday with a Stadia platform that will let players stream blockbuster titles to any device they wish, as the online giant also unveiled a new controller and its very own studio.

The California-based technology giant said its Stadia platform will open to gamers later this year in the United States, Canada, Britain and other parts of Europe.

For now, Google is focused on working with game makers to tailor titles for play on Stadia, saying it has already provided the technology to more than 100 game developers.

“We are on the brink of a huge revolution in gaming,” said Jade Raymond, the former Ubisoft and Electronic Arts executive tapped to head Google’s new studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment.

“We are committed to going down a bold path,” she told a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The Stadia tech platform aims to connect people for interactive play on PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

Google also unveiled a new controller that can be used to play cloud-based individual or multiplayer games.

Stadia controllers mirrored those designed for Xbox or PlayStation consoles, with the addition of dedicated buttons for streaming live play via YouTube or asking Google Assistant virtual aide for help beating a daunting puzzle or challenge.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai said the initiative is “to build a game platform for everyone.”

“I think we can change the game by bringing together the entirety of the ecosystem,” Pichai told a keynote audience.

‘Netflix of gaming’

Google’s hope is that Stadia could become for games what Netflix or Spotify are to television or music, by making console-quality play widely available.

Yet it remains unclear how much Google can grab of the nascent, but potentially massive industry.

As it produces its own games, Google will also be courting other studios to move to its cloud-based model.

Google collaborated with French video game titan Ubisoft last year in a limited public test of the technology powering Stadia, and its chief executive was in the front row at the platform’s unveiling.

A coming new version of blockbuster action game “Doom” tailored to play on Stadia was teased at the event by iD studio executive producer Marty Stratton.

“If you are going to prove to the world you can stream games from the cloud, what better game than ‘Doom’,” Stratton said.

Streaming games from the cloud brings the potential to tap into massive amounts of computing power in data centers.

For gamers, that could translate into richer game environments, more creative play options or battle royale matches involving thousands of players.

At the developers conference, Google demonstrated fast, cloud-based play on a variety of devices. But it offered no specific details on how it would monetize the new service or compensate developers.

Money-making options could include selling game subscriptions the way Netflix charges for access to streaming television.

“I think it’s a huge potential transition in the video game industry, not only for the instant access to games but for exploring different business models to games,” Jon Peddie Research analyst Ted Pollak said of Stadia.

“They say it’s the Netflix of gaming; that is actually pretty accurate.”

Ubisoft on board

Ubisoft, known for “Assassin’s Creed” and other titles, said it would be working with Google.

Its co-founder and chief Yves Guillemot predicted streaming would “give billions unprecedented opportunities to play video games in the future.”

An “Assassin’s Creed” title franchise was used to test Google’s “Project Stream” technology for hosting the kind of quick, seamless play powered by in-home consoles as an online service.

The reliability and speed of internet connections is seen as a challenge to cloud gaming, with action play potentially marred by streaming lags or disruptions.

Google said its investments in networks and data centers should help prevent latency in data transmissions.

In places with fast and reliable wireless, internet players will likely access games on the wide variety of devices envisioned by Google, while hard-core players in places where wireless connections aren’t up to the task could opt for consoles, according to Pollak.

“I think it is good news for everyone,” Pollak said when asked what Stadia meant to major console makers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The US video game industry generated a record $43.4 billion in revenue in 2018, up 18 percent from the prior year, according to data released by the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group.

AFP

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