TIME Video Games

Nintendo Deal Lets Gamers Upload Directly to YouTube

General Nintendo Imagery As The Company Reports Earnings
A pedestrian walks past an advertisement for Wii U, Nintendo's gaming console, outside a store in the Japanese city of Osaka on May 2, 2014 Tomohiro Ohsumi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

In its latest attempt to resuscitate revenue, Nintendo hopes to cash in on content creators’ ad payments

A new initiative by Nintendo allows players on Wii U, the company’s latest gaming console, to upload their game-play footage directly to YouTube.

The deal comes after Nintendo controversially flagged thousands of game-play clips uploaded to YouTube and blocked content creators from collecting ad revenues. Under the planned affiliate program, earnings will be split among Nintendo, Google (which owns YouTube) and the content creator. Exactly how the cash will be divided has yet to be disclosed.

Nintendo posted its third consecutive annual loss last month following disappointing holiday sales.

[Mashable]

TIME Video Games

Apple’s ‘Metal’ Could Transform iOS Gaming If It Works as Promised

Apple's Metal could transform the complexity limits of games in iOS 8, but if it wants to eventually compete with game consoles -- and the company referred to "console-level" graphics during its WWDC presentation repeatedly -- it still has an interface problem to solve.

Apple’s gaming strategy — anemic enough in the past that some might view those three words used in the same sentence as oxymoronic — took an interesting turn at the company’s annual WWDC 2014 conference on Monday. Apple software engineer VP Craig Federighi surprised onlookers after steering lengthy presentations on OS X Yosemite (Apple’s latest version of OS X) and iOS 8 by revealing something the company calls “Metal,” which Federighi prefaced as “huge in the area of 3D graphics.”

Metal, says Apple, is designed to supplant OpenGL, or the Open Graphics Library, as the mechanism in iOS whereby developers get their hooks into the hardware — in this case, Apple’s powerful A7 system-on-a-chip processor. Calling OpenGL “increasingly…a thick layer of overhead between the game and the hardware,” Federighi claimed Metal would dissolve most of that layer and replace it with one that offers “near bare-to-the-metal access to the power of A7.” According to Federighi, the difference is “stunning,” with draw call rates clocking up to 10 times faster (“draw call rate” refers to the process whereby an application renders different types of visual data to the screen, though there’s some debate over its importance as a performance bottleneck).

That, in theory, would reduce processing overhead, allow developers room to access the “compute” aspect of the GPU portion of A7 (in addition to graphics), and Metal supports both precompiled shaders and “efficient” multithreading. (Shaders are employed to “color” aspects of an image or create other visual effects, and precompiling them can reduce load times.)

Technical claims of API prowess aside, it seems Apple’s been working with Crytek, Epic, EA and Unity to come up with Metal-based demos. The first three of those companies are long-reputed for pushing graphical boundaries in games: Crytek with Crysis and Ryse, Epic with its proliferative Unreal Engine and EA with subsidiary DICE’s Frostbite technology.

Federighi said these companies had only been fiddling with Metal for a few weeks, but managed to achieve “stunning” results, then he brought up a clip of EA’s Plants vs. Zombies — a “console-level title” — running in iOS 8 with over “1.3 million triangles on the screen at a time.”

How does that compare to a pre-Metal 3D game? I have no idea, but I’m guessing Apple wouldn’t risk boasting about the metric in specific terms before an audience largely composed of developers if it wasn’t a meaningful leap.

(Federighi added that EA was using its Frostbite engine here, though when he said EA “thought [it] could never come to mobile,” it’s not clear if he meant the console-native version of Frostbite, or he meant EA’s Frostbite Go, a version of Frostbite designed specifically for iOS and unveiled over a year ago.)

Federighi went on to highlight footage of a game by Crytek (from The Collectables, a squad-based tactics game for iOS announced last year — the big deal with Metal, apparently, is that they can do up to 4,000 draw calls per frame, says Federighi), before turning the stage over to Epic founder and Unreal Engine co-creator Tim Sweeney.

Sweeney, sounding a bit stilted, as if reading from a script (which he doubtless was) demonstrated a tech demo alongside one of his colleagues that he called “Zen Garden.” Zen Garden was built using Unreal Engine 4 (the latest UE version, released in early April this year) and designed to highlight detailed special effects, like drawing thousands of leaves on a tree in realtime and watching them flutter to the ground, or poking around in a fish pool filled with hundreds of fish (each able to have CPU time dedicated toward making them individually intelligent), or animating thousands of butterflies as the screen panned and shifted around a complex-looking 3D backdrop in realtime.

Again, it’s impossible to tell how any of that compares in specific terms to some of the highest-end console games today, like Ryse or Killzone: Shadow Fall or Battlefield 4, so we’re left to with generalizations and pretty — if not mind-blowingly so — imagery. Sweeney noted Zen Garden would be available on the App Store for free when iOS 8 ships later this year, so maybe a gaming performance analysis outfit like Digital Foundry can make something of its meaningfulness at that point. Federighi said no more about Metal after Sweeney left the stage — no tout list of third-party developers, or of games in development, or timeframe estimates on when we’ll see iOS 8 Metal-enhanced games.

What this wasn’t, then: Apple throwing down the gauntlet and squaring off with Microsoft’s Xbox One or Sony’s PlayStation 4. Not yet, anyway. The company seems to be stepping, component by component, toward an inexorable confrontation rather than throwing all its weight behind a fully articulated console-competitive games platform — built on iOS — today. Call it an overabundance of caution, call it oblivious nonchalance toward the highest grossing entertainment medium by revenue on the planet, I suspect it’s probably just a company taking its time, fully cognizant of the fact that multitouch devices have serious limitations — interface hurdles that have to be overcome, if indeed they’re worth overcoming — if Apple wants to eventually present tablets (or post-tablets) as console-alternative gaming devices. And that’s still a big if.

TIME Apple

iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite: Fit for a World Where Apple Rules

Apple's latest software makes the case for leaving all your Android and Windows devices behind.

While wrapping up the keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, CEO Tim Cook used a familiar refrain: “You’ve seen how our operating systems, devices and services all work together in harmony,” he said. “… This is something only Apple can do.”

Cook has brought up the “only Apple” talking point before, but it’s never felt this accurate. iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite don’t merely ask that you use nothing but Apple hardware; they also suggest that your family and friends should do the same. You’ll all have a better experience, Apple argues, when everyone’s using iPhones, iPads and Macs.

There are a few layers to this strategy, and you can see them play out in iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite:

  • On the personal level, if you have an iPhone, you can use a Mac or iPad to make phone calls or send text messages. You can also start doing something on one device–for instance, editing a document in iWork or writing an e-mail–and immediately pick up where you left off on another device with one click or swipe. Apple is also launching a new iOS Photos app that syncs your edits across all devices, with a Mac version coming later. Apple refers to these features as “continuity,” and they only work when you own several Apple devices.
  • On the family level, iOS 8 will allow a group of users to share calendar appointments, photos, reminders and even purchased apps. If you have children, they can ask you for permission to buy an app, and you can approve the purchase remotely from your iOS device. The idea is that you’ll have a stronger family unit when everyone’s on the same computing platform.
  • Beyond you and your family, Apple has come up with more ways for Apple users to communicate among themselves. In the Messages app for iOS 8, users will be able to exchange brief audio messages and share their locations on a timed or indefinite basis. Much like FaceTime for video chat, these communications exclude users of other platforms, and they’ll likely become extremely popular regardless.

The common thread here is that all these features get better as more people own more Apple products. Although Apple has benefited from network effects before–most notably in the virtuous cycle of the App Store–this is a bit different. Apple has essentially found a way for its own popularity to fuel features that no other platform has.

If I sound both excited and alarmed, that’s intentional. As impressive as Apple’s new software sounds, I’ve always tried to avoid being too invested in any one platform, and have instead relied on services that are readily available everywhere. By doing this, I’ve made it easy to adopt whatever hardware suits my needs, whether it’s an extra-large phone, a smaller tablet or a touchscreen laptop. I’ve never had to wait for Apple to release the kinds of devices I want.

But with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple is taking an axe to that approach. It’s come up with entirely new kinds of services that can only exist across Apple hardware. If you want those services, you need to go all-in with Apple. Tim Cook’s words ring truer than ever.

TIME

Apple’s Most Revolutionary New Product: Itself

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote Monday is sure to have pleased some and disappointed others. At the annual confab of software developers for Macs and iDevices, CEO Tim Cook and other executives presented new versions of Mac OS X for computers and iOS for iPhones and iPads. Both systems appear to borrow from one another liberally, evolving to work in tandem much more elegantly.

But there was another, arguably more radical product on display: Apple itself. There was no slick marketing video extolling its virtues. And there was no explicit mention of its “magical” changes by any of the executives that padded into the spotlight. But it was there, center stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. This is clearly a different (and perhaps more interesting) company than the one Steve Jobs left behind when he died three years ago. It seems a company that, increasingly, reflects the ideas, taste and sensibility of a group, rather than an individual.

Jobs architected and oversaw the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism. It was only natural that, in the wake of his death, the question of whether Apple could really sustain its momentum would persist. It’s a doubt that’s lingered like a bad smell at many of the firms that survive near-death episodes, from IBM to Chrysler.

Apple observers even got a sense of what the company’s employees think of the question last year when it introduced a Lilliputian new desktop, the Mac Pro. Unveiling the machine, marketing boss Phil Schiller said curtly, “Can’t innovate my ass.” And last month when Internet Software and Services chief Eddy Cue said “We’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple,” it was a not-so-subtle-nod to investors and fanboys not to worry—some cool stuff is on the way. Still, the fact that the company’s last all-new product, the iPad, came out in 2010 is going to be catnip for doubters until the world finds out what those products actually are.

But where many people have been looking for a major new product—an iWatch, say, or an Apple-branded television set—the real innovation may have been in who runs the company and how. Under Jobs, Apple was a firm that largely brought in executives from less well known or glamorous outfits and grew them internally. Bob Mansfield, the technology guru, came from Raycer Graphics. Scott Forstall and Craig Federighi, the software guys, came with Jobs from Next. Designers like Tony Fadell and Jonathan Ive were essentially consultants from smaller firms who were convinced to sign on full time. And current CEO Tim Cook came from Compaq. (The only exception that comes to mind: Ron Johnson, who had a well-covered career at Target before helping create the Apple Stores.)

But consider Apple’s executive bench today. Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO, is planning an overhaul to Apple’s juggernaut retail division. Paul Deneve, the one-time CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, is likely helping with the company’s wearable devices. And there are Apple’s two newest recruits, Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre,who are coming on as part of the company’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics. These are all executives who, by virtue of their star power, are likely to have a higher profile of their own.

There are a lot of obvious reasons this is the case, not least of which that Apple is a much stronger, richer, more attractive company to work for than it was in the late 1990s. Then, Wired ran its famous “Pray” cover; now, it’s number 5 on the brand-new Fortune 500 list. And yet, even during the presentation this morning you could sense the shift. Keynotes have always had special guests and humorous asides, but today they seemed a little looser, a little more relaxed. Software head Craig Federighi called from backstage with a somewhat ham-handed hair and makeup malfunction, for instance.

A company with thousands of employees is never going to only reflect the vision of an individual, even a legend like Jobs. In fact he often ended public presentations with heartfelt praise of the company’s employees and their families, as Cook did again today. But as far as Apple’s next big thing goes, it’s already here.

TIME Videos

Here’s What’s Next from Apple (in Under Two Minutes)

Apple's WWDC keynote just wrapped up. Here's what's coming from the tech giant this fall.

More WWDC coverage here.

TIME technology

Hallelujah—You Can Now Escape Annoying Group Texts Sent to Your iPhone

DOUNIAMAG-US-IT-INTERNET-APPLE-ITUNES RADIO
AFP/Getty Images

RIP irrelevant group text conversations. We won't miss you

You can now officially say goodbye to the inevitable feeling of dread that overtakes your body upon realizing you’ve non-consensually been added on to an irrelevant group text conversation.

Lot’s of stuff happened Monday at Apple’s WWDC. But one of the developer conference’s most exciting moments wasn’t har-harring with the Twitterverse when exec Craig Federighi showed off OS X Yosemite’s phone features by screening a call from his Mom and opting to dial Dr. Dre instead. It was when Apple announced that in iOS 8, users can finally unsubscribe from the endless pings of group chats. Because as happy as you are to know that your four closest friends and three randos with unfamiliar area codes are getting drinks Friday, you’re out of town and really don’t want to be a part of the painstaking pro-cons of West Village versus Williamsburg.

Up until now, there was no opt-out policy of group iMessages, the chain email of our era. There’s now a safe exit from a group text with a new do not disturb feature, which will silence the thread. If you aren’t one for subtlety, you can also just leave.

Sure, this might not be the most innovative thing at WWDC—your phone can now act as a remote control for your entire house with HomeKit and track your medical stats with HealthKit—but this development might save some phones from getting thrown out windows at times of complete annoyance.

TIME Innovation

Feds Might Allow Drones For Filmmakers

Drone Manufacture At Steadidrone Plant As Companies Explore Commercial Usage
Technicians look on as a SteadiDrone EI8GHT Octocopter hovers during a test flight in a field outside the headquarters of Mensuro Ltd., a distributor for SteadiDrone Ltd. products, in Pilsen, Czech Republic, on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg /Getty Images

Seven aerial cinematography companies have petitioned for the right to mount cameras to drones and make movie magic

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering lifting a nationwide ban on using drones for commercial purposes—so long as the purpose is to make movie magic.

Seven companies represented by the Motion Picture Association of America have asked for permission to shoot film and TV productions using unmanned aerial vehicles. The FAA said Monday that it would consider exemptions on a case-by-case basis, acknowledging “there could be tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand.”

A growing list of companies have requested permission to fly drones over farmland, power lines, pipelines and oil and gas flare stacks, among other commercial uses. The FAA says the firms must prove that exemptions to the rules will not pose a hazard to public safety.

Congress ordered the agency to set a framework allowing for commercial use of drones by 2015. The FAA will test drones at six sites.

TIME Video Games

Mario Kart 8 Clocked 1.2 Million Copies Sold in First Weekend, Says Nintendo

Nintendo

Nintendo says its popular kart-based racer is off to a strong start, but doesn't indicate how the game's impacting Wii U sales.

Our Mario Kart 8 review appeared half a month ago, but the game didn’t go on sale until May 30 — last Friday. Over the weekend, Nintendo’s debut Mario Kart for the Wii U managed to sell more than 1.2 million units worldwide, says Nintendo, “worldwide” in this case comprising Japan, Europe and the Americas.

The news comes a week out from E3 2014, where Nintendo is expected to focus on new software for both its Wii U console and 3DS handheld game system. The Wii U’s been struggling since its launch in November 2012 to strike a chord with both potential buyers and third-party game developers. To date, Nintendo’s only sold in the vicinity of 6 million units, whereas Sony’s PlayStation 4 — launched a year later than the Wii U — is already well ahead of Nintendo’s system, surpassing 7 million units sold worldwide in mid-April.

The 3DS, by contrast, has sold quite well for Nintendo since it dropped the handheld’s price in August 2011 (just six months after its February stateside debut), selling over 42 million units to date. But sales have tapered off recently, posting a year-on-year sales deficit in Nintendo’s most recent fiscal report.

Mario Kart 8 was expected to be a major sales booster for the company. After all, Mario Kart Wii, the sixth in series, sold an unprecedented 33.5 million copies, and Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS has sold over 9.5 million copies to date.

Whether it’s been a major Wii U booster remains to be seen. Nintendo’s only talking unit sales of the game at this point, many of which presumably went to existing system owners.

Life to date (and before Mario Kart 8 sales), Nintendo says the Mario Kart franchise has sold over 100 million units.

TIME Companies

Apple Unveils New Mobile Operating System iOS 8

Long-rumored health and smarthome features introduced

Apple introduced a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday.

CEO Tim Cook described iOS 8 as “a huge release” comprised of new features for end users as well as additional capabilities for developers. For users, iOS 8 will include an interactive notification center, an improved email inbox, a revamped keyboard with predictive typing, and a number of features for businesses. For developers, Apple announced a new programming language, dubbed Swift, to make it much faster to create apps for iOS.

As widely rumored before the conference, Apple unveiled HealthKit, software for tracking everything from exercise to blood pressure. The system, which Apple said it was working on with the Mayo Clinic, will integrate health data from a wide range of apps and devices. “Up to now, you couldn’t get a single comprehensive picture of your health,” said Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi.

Another introduction, HomeKit, will allow iOS to connect with a number of smarthome devices. Federighi gave the example of telling Siri, Apple’s digital assistant, that it was “time for bed,” which would signal smart devices, like light bulbs, to change states.

Executives demonstrated an updated Messages app which will let users share their locations with one another. The company is also adding a “tap-to-talk” feature that allows a user to hold down the screen to turn on the microphone and speak a message into a messaging thread. Audio messages are automatically played when a user raises the phone to their ear.

Apple is adding the option to preview apps or to purchase them in discounted bundles in its App Store. TestFlight is another feature being aimed at developers, allowing them to recruit iOS users as beta testers before an app’s final release.

Siri is also getting some upgrades. Much like Google Now, Siri in iOS 8 will be accessible with just a voice command of “Hey, Siri.” The upgraded assistant will also include Shazam song recognition, allowing users to quickly make iTunes purchases.

iOS will be available as a beta for developers today; it will be available to users this fall.

“Apple engineers platforms, devices and services together. WE do this so we can create a seamless experience for our users that is unparalleled in the industry,” said Cook in his closing remarks. “This is something only Apple can do.”

TIME Apple

Apple Unveils New Operating System Dubbed “Yosemite”

Apple today unveiled the next version of its Mac OS X operating system. The new release, called OS X Yosemite after the famed national park, includes a largely redesigned user interface more closely aligned with the look of its mobile iOS software.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s software engineering chief, took the stage of the firm’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference to show off the software. The new version, which features a sharper, flatter look, is more similar to the iOS software that runs on iPhones and iPads than any previous version of the Mac operating system.

OS X Yosemite also includes a “Dark Mode” that minimizes the translucency effect and introduces a darker color palette. Executives previewed changes to the software’s Notification Center, Spotlight search, Maps, Calendar, Messages, and Safari web browser.

A system dubbed “continuity” is intended to allow iOS devices and Macs to communicate seamlessly. A user can, for example, begin composing an email on an iPhone and automatically finish writing it on a nearby desktop computer. The system can also be used to place and answer phone calls and text messages that come to a phone on a nearby computer.

To show off the feature, Federighi placed a call from his desktop to new Apple employee Dr. Dre. “How you doing this is Dre,” said the rapper who is joining the company as part of a $3 billion deal for headphone-maker Beats Electronics. “Thanks for creating such amazing apps,” he said. “Say, what time should I show up for work?”

Apple made a developer preview available to conference attendees today. It will be available for free to all users this fall.

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