Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some VR headset sales figures

So, both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have been on the market for over a year now. I think it's time to look at some sales figures.

It appears that neither company is directly publishing exact sales figures (I wonder why), so these figures are based on estimates by analysts, but I think they are probably at least in the ballpark.

But before we go to those figures, let's get some perspective by looking at sales figures of other gaming hardware, for comparison.

The PlayStation 4 was released in November of 2013. In the United Kingdom alone it sold 250 thousand units within 48 hours. In the United States that number is over a million. Overall, by the end of December of that year (ie. one and a half months later) 4.2 million units had been sold worldwide. One year later that figure had climbed to 18.5 million. (As of January of 2017 the estimate is 53 million.)

The Xbox One was slightly less popular, but still sold like hotcakes. It was likewise published on November of 2013 (about a week later than the PS4), and it sold about a million units within the first 24 hours. By the end of the year (ie. a bit over a month after release) it had sold approximately 3 million units. One year later the console had sold about 10 million units.

The PlayStation 3 was released on November of 2006. By the end of that year it had sold about 1.7 million units, and a year later 10.5 million.

The Xbox 360 was released on November of 2005. By the end of the year it had sold 1.5 million units, and a year later 7.6 million.

For the Nintendo DS (released in November 2004) those figures are 2.8 million by the end of the year and 14.4 million a year later. Its successor, the 3DS, was released in February 2011. Within three months it had sold 3.6 million units, and within a year about 17 million units.

These ought to give a generic picture of what the sales figures of popular gaming hardware is. Almost invariably they will have sold about 10 million units within a year, often more.

So what are the sales figures for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive now that they have been out for a year?

HTC Vive: Approximately 420 thousand.
Oculus Rift: Approximately 355 thousand.

That's less than one twentieth of what new consoles typically sell within a year.

Even the PlayStation Vita, which is generally considered a commercial failure, sold 1.2 million units within a couple of months, and about 4 million within a year.

Fans of VR still keep telling me that VR is a success, it's marvelous, it's the future, and will revolutionize video gaming as we know it. How long will they keep saying that, I have to wonder. Those sales figures don't really back up their claims.

I'm not saying that VR will never experience a resurgence and a huge boost at some point. However, so far it seems really, really bleak. VR headsets are selling much, much worse than other gaming hardware that have been considered commercial failures.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

AGDQ and PCF questionable practices

I have written previously about how the Games Done Quick marathons have become highly "sterilized", bureaucratic, "sponsor-friendly", commercial, and outright authoritarian, which has garnered criticism from many people.

However, some people present even more criticism about the whole thing, and not only about the events themselves, but more particularly about the Prevent Cancer Foundation, to which the AGDQ marathons raise money for.

During the marathons the presenters and speakers keep constantly reminding how "100% of the donations go to the Prevent Cancer Foundation." Many people criticize this statement as, at the very least, borderline misleading.

Notice how the statement does not say that 100% of the donations go to cancer prevention and research done by the PCF. It says that they go to the PCF. There is a difference.

Since the PCF is a non-profit organization, they have to publish in detail what they spend their money in. For example in the period between July 2014 and June 2015 their total revenue was slightly over $6 million (about 25% of which came from the AGDQ event.) From that money 62% was spent on education, research, and community outreach.

62 percent.

That means that about $2.3 million went somewhere else. Sure, running an organization this large requires expenses. But $2.3 million a year? Really? How many people who donate to AGDQ know that 38% of what the donate goes to something other than preventing cancer?

Also, how many people from outside the United States, who donate to the event, are aware that the PCF operates solely within the United States? Not a dime of that money goes to research, education or other activities outside the country.

But, here's the kicker: Part of that money goes to sponsor and organize the AGDQ events themselves. And this is where the heaviest criticism stems from.

You see, part of sponsoring and organizing AGDQ involves paying the event organizers and volunteers. Which is why the "100% of the donations go to the PCF" is deemed to be so misleading: Yes, the donations go through the PCF... but a sizeable portion of that money comes back to the AGDQ organizers and volunteers the next year. They are paid by that very money that's donated.

Sure, many donors may be just fine with that and wouldn't mind. However, the criticism comes from the misleading statement that's so often repeated that "100% goes to the PCF" that gives the false impression that nothing of that money goes to the AGDQ organizers (often including the very person saying that!) Some of that money does go to the AGDQ organizers and workers! It's misleading to imply that it doesn't.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why I think VR will fail

I have been writing quite a lot about my disappointment in VR, and how it seems to be failing badly, and much of this is repeating the same points, but anyways...

Recently Microsoft announced that their next console, "Project Scorpio", will have no Kinect port. In fact, they did the same with the Xbox One S. Moreover, they have also stopped giving Kinect owners USB adapters for the Kinect for free. Most commentators agree that the Kinect is dead for good. Neither Microsoft nor anybody else is making games for it anymore, nor have been for years, and it's quite clear that Microsoft has zero intention of supporting it anymore, except for legacy reasons. It's a dead piece of technology that was very niche in the first place. (Perhaps the only reason why there are so many units out there is because for about a year it was a mandatory peripheral for the original Xbox One. You couldn't buy one without the other.)

This reminded me of how similar VR is to the Kinect, in more than one aspect.

For one, the Kinect tracks the user's hands, head and body to some extent, and games are mostly controlled by moving these body parts. Does this remind you of anything? It's eerily similar to "room-scale VR". (Granted, the latter is approximately a million times more accurate and immersive than the former, but in terms of gameplay and game mechanics it's very similar.)

Secondly, the Kinect requires a hefty amount of room space to work properly. Many Kinect games have to be played by standing up, at quite a distance from the device. Some kinect games could be played while sitting down, but rarely. Again, any similarities to something else?

Thirdly, and more importantly in terms of why the Kinect turned out to be a failure, there is little cross-over between Kinect games and regular games. Meaning that most Kinect games are Kinect-only, and can't be played without it. And the vast majority of regular games do not have (and cannot reasonably have) optional Kinect support. The two groups of games are pretty much separate, with extremely little overlap. The Kinect pretty much requires specialized exclusive games designed explicitly for it.

Again, does this remind you of anything?

At first, when the Oculus Rift was at its development stage, and there existed only development kits for it, it was envisioned that a VR headset would be, effectively, just an alternative display. A much more immersive one. Maybe games would need to be patched for explicit support, maybe support could be automated via in-between drivers, but overall it could potentially work with almost any 3D game.

However, both the VR manufacturing industry and the gaming industry at large have decided that VR and regular old games don't mix very well, and there's very little overlap possible. Most game developers are not bothering, and some are even outright refusing, to add VR support to existing games, or even new games of traditional genres (with a few exceptions with some driving simulation games.)

The divide between Kinect games and regular games exists because of technical and practical reasons. The same divide between VR games and regular games is mostly self-imposed. But it is what it is. VR games pretty much exist on their own separate category, and there is very little overlap.

Which is one of the reasons why it's possible that VR will fail. VR is a gimmick, very niche, and it requires its own specialized exclusive games designed explicitly for it. Just like the Kinect.

Then there is, of course, the lack of games. The library of triple-A games for the Kinect is abysmal. The library of triple-A games for VR is abysmal. Lack of games has killed numerous gaming platforms in the past.

In some aspects, however, VR is is even worse then the Kinect.

For one, it's very expensive. After all, you can grab a Kinect for something like 100€, while the price for the PC VR headsets range from 700€ to 900€. Prices that are too high have killed the adoption rates of devices (especially niche ones) countless times in the past.

Secondly, if you have an Xbox 360 or Xbox One, you don't need anything else to use the Kinect. However, just because you own a PC doesn't necessarily mean that you can use a VR headset and have it work properly. VR headsets have very specific, and steep, hardware requirements, and most PCs even today don't meet them. VR would require a hardware upgrade, which would increase the price of VR even further.

I'm not saying VR will definitely fail. I just can't help but notice the numerous similarities with the Kinect, which is pretty much a failed product.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why feminist comedy just doesn't work

There are a few feminist activists, who try to be comedians. At least one of them even tried to make a series about it (I think it was on Netflix). They all fail spectacularly. They, naturally, attribute it to misogyny, patriarchy, oppression and what not. However, that's not the reason why their "comedy" doesn't work. The actual reasons are several.

For starters, and perhaps most importantly, they don't understand that mockery is not comedy. Mockery might be funny to (a portion of) likeminded people, who might laugh at the targets of the mockery, but to the general public it's just not funny.

If you look at good comedians, there are several essential characteristics, and common traits, to their comedy. For one, it's often self-deprecating; in other words, the comedian is making fun of him or herself. And it's always light-hearted, not overly self-indulgent, whiny or "emo".

A good example of such comedy is a joke by one of the most famous comedians (unfortunately I can't remember exactly who, but might have been the great George Carlin), which goes something along the lines of: "As a kid, when people asked me what I will be when I grow up, and I told them a comedian, they laughed at me. They aren't laughing now."

As a comedian, you should never make fun of your audience, nor in general of any large group of people, even if they aren't your audience. The more this "comedy" is just outright mockery of the audience or a group of people, the less funny it is. Sometimes comedians may make fun of celebrities, but it's always light-hearted, not mean-spirited. It's always something that the target of the joke would laugh at him or herself as well. Likewise if a (good) comedian ever makes fun of a group of people, some particular demographic, it's also likewise light-hearted rather than mean-spirited. Mockery, insults and accusations just aren't good comedy, and is not fun. And these feminist comedians have really hard time understanding this.

Another thing that they do not understand is that political messages, and political activism, doesn't make for good comedy. Making a political statement or a claim about something related to politics or society, even if indirectly, without a punchline or an absurd twist, just isn't a joke. It's not comedy, no matter how much you try to dress it as "humor".

Humor, a joke, is funny when there's an unexpected twist in the punchline that plays with the mental image formed by the setup: First form a rather mundane mental image of something, and then suddenly twist it into something absurd. This sudden change from mundane to absurd is what makes people laugh.

A good example is the cliché old joke that goes something like: "I flew this morning across the Atlantic to get here. Man, are my arms tired!" The joke works because the premise forms a mental image of something mundane and normal, and the punchline then elicits a completely absurd interpretation of it. This sudden juxtaposition of the mundane with the absurd is what makes people laugh.

Even when a good comedian deals with some political topic, a good comedian doesn't take sides, and instead makes a complex topic into humorous banter. For example Chris Rock is a master at this. As an example, in a standup comedy routine he deals with the issue of the "n-word privilege". Rather than take sides, he makes light-hearted fun about how complex the whole thing is.

However, if you are just making a political statement, some kind of factual claim, or just mocking a group of people in a mean-spirited way, this kind of juxtaposition is completely lacking. It doesn't elicit laughter. It's just not fun, even if the "comedian" tries to dress it as if were a joke.

This is why comedy just doesn't work for political activism. It has to be light-hearted and in good taste, it shouldn't be mean-spirited and just outright attack the audience or a group of people, and it most certainly shouldn't be mockery. Also virtue-signaling is never good for a comedian. Light-hearted (but not whiny) self-deprecation works as humor significantly better.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

In defense of Google and YouTube

I have written in the past a couple of blog posts about how messed up the copyright system on YouTube is (among other things, How to steal people's ad revenue from YouTube, and How YouTube helps big corporations steal your videos).

However, to be fair, and while there are many things that Google could do better regarding those problems, these are measures that Google is pretty much forced to do in order to protect itself, and its users, from copyright lawsuits. Some things could be done better (such as not automatically and irrevocably giving ad revenue to somebody who merely claims intellectual property on a video), but overall it's something that they just have to do.

There is, however, something that Google is, at least so far, doing that deserves a huge amount of praise. You see, so far, Google appears to be one of the very few social media corporations who are standing for the freedom of speech of its users, rather than placating to entities, media, and sometimes even governments, demanding censorship.

This whole debacle about hundreds of corporations pulling their ads from YouTube, in some kind of semi-collusion or semi-agreement (verbal or implicit, nobody but they know), started in part with Google actually refusing to trample over its users' freedoms and censoring videos. It started with Google saying "no" to such demands.

So far Google, very much unlike other social media giants (like Facebook and Twitter), has stood for the rights of their users, to freely express their opinions, whether good or bad, and they deserve a standing ovation for that.

Let us hope that Google retains their integrity and doesn't cave in because of the enormous amount of pressure and attacks it's receiving from the media and virtue-signaling corporations and governments, who are heavily pushing for an extremist leftist political agenda, censorship and silencing of people with "wrong" opinions.

Let us hope that YouTube remains the largest, and perhaps last, bastion of free speech on the Internet. Freedom of speech is for everybody, not just for the people with the "right" opinions.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Old Media is dying... and they are fighting back

If the election of Donald Trump showed us something, it's that the traditional media is dying. Newspapers, television, radio... it's all dying. They used to have a huge influence over the population, pretty much telling them what to think and how to vote. And they tried, on man how they tried, to make the population not vote for Trump. And they failed.

It was the final wakeup call. The final nail in the coffin. For years the media has been dying, and this was the final piece of evidence.

But the Old Media isn't going to give up just like that. They are not going to just admit defeat and go away silently. They are the establishment, dammit. They dictate how people must think, and how they must vote. They elect and run governments.

The biggest threat to the Old Media is undoubtedly YouTube. The "problem" with YouTube is that it allows people to communicate with millions of other people directly, without the filtering and biases imposed by the media. There is no establishment between producers and consumers, deciding what is and isn't good.

But how to kill such a giant as YouTube? One wouldn't think it would be that easy. But the establishment is smart. Surprisingly smart: If you want to kill YouTube, stop the incoming money flow. But how?

Well, the slanderous hit piece against PewDiePie, the biggest name on YouTube, was just the first step. It wasn't clear at first why they attacked him in particular. Why is PewDiePie their enemy? Why did they want him in particular down?

It turns out that it's not about PewDiePie himself. He and his content is irrelevant. They don't give a flying fuck about him. It wasn't really an attack on PewDiePie in particular. It was much more devious than that.

The real reason behind the attack was to show the world, and more particularly, to big corporations running ads on YouTube, that their ads are being shown on videos with "antisemitic content", and "hate speech", and all the other buzzwords that are so popular in the current political zeitgeist. By attacking the biggest name on YouTube they got the attention of the advertisers. Of course Disney and YouTube pulled their sponsorships from PewDiePie, but that wasn't the actual goal. That was just means to an end.

The end was to show advertisers at large that their ads are being shown with this kind of "politically incorrect" content.

And it's working so well it's actually scary. The Old Media is telling big corporations to pull their ads from YouTube, and they are complying. Dozens and dozens of megacorporations are doing so, and YouTube is in a crisis.

If it continues like this, YouTube is going down. Exactly what the Old Media, the establishment, wants. That's their goal all along. The Old Media feels threatened by YouTube, and they are killing it with everything they have. And it seems to be working.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Orwell's 1984 is becoming more and more true

The most recent terrorist attack in London is showing, once again, how Orwell's vision, and warning, of a totalitarian society is becoming more and more true.

The slogan of "The Party" in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four is: War is Peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Ignorance is strength. And cowardice is courage.

What is, once again, the cookie-cutter message that the politicians of England, and everywhere else, are giving to the citizens of London? That this terrorist attack will not make them fall into despair, that they will not let fear overcome them, and that they will go on with their lives with courage.

Or, in other words, that the citizens should just ignore the problem and pretend that it doesn't exist. That they should put their fingers into their ears and cover their eyes, and just keep going on like before, like nothing has happened. In other words, the coward's way: When there is a problem, just pretend it doesn't exist, and maybe it will go away. And this is, somehow, "courage".

It's actually frightening how much this rhetoric resembles the propaganda of a totalitarian regime set on making the populace submissive and subservient through psychological manipulation: Do not question the establishment. Do not protest. Everything is fine and as it should be. You should ignore all perceived problems, and keep living your life as before. You should keep serving the system.

The subservient attitude is enforced primarily via shaming: If you protest, if you raise against the establishment, if you go against the government and the system, you are a racist, a bigot, a fascist, an islamophobe, a deplorable person. You wouldn't want to be one of those undesirables, now would you? You wouldn't want to become a persona non grata, would you? Unless you want to be one of them, you should remain docile and quiet, and just keep living your life as before, serving the system, and never raising your voice in protest. You should pretend that nothing is wrong, and ignore the problems.

As more and more people are starting to fight back, and protest, and demand that the problems be solved, when the shaming tactics are becoming less and less effective, the next step is to criminalize wrongthink. If you protest the establishment, if you go against the government narrative, you will be put in jail. Expect a visit from the police.

This is not just hypothetical rhetoric. It's happening more and more frequently. Country after country is passing law after law criminalizing dissenting opinion. Canada's passing of the law criminalizing "islamophobia" is but just the most recent example. And undoubtedly it's going to become more and more common.

If shaming isn't working, the populace needs to be forced into submission by law. The west will become islamic, by force if necessary. And why? Why are all the governments, and the media, so set on making the west islamic? That's a mystery that might never be answered.

As I see it, there are only two possible outcomes for this situation: Country after country will become a totalitarian islamic regime, where women will be oppressed and homosexuals thrown from rooftops, or the far right will raise and the west will become Nazi Germany version 2. I see no other possibility. Neither future looks very bright.