Do you lament EA's dominance of soccer (aka football) games due to its licensing advantages? So does FIFA, apparently. Eurogamernotes that FIFA has issued a statement insisting that soccer gaming and eSports should have more than one party "controlling and exploiting all rights" — a not-so-subtle reference to EA. Accordingly, FIFA is talking to developers, investors and other groups to "widen" its gaming and eSports options.
The organization added this would help "maximize all future opportunities." It also reiterated its commitment to running eSports tournaments under its FIFAe brand.
The statement comes at a crucial moment for both EA and FIFA. EA's current licensing deal expires after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and New York Timessources claim talks have stalled between the two sides. FIFA reportedly wants more than double its current cut from EA (more than $1 billion over four years) while also limiting EA's rights to keep it to video games. EA, meanwhile, is considering new names for its soccer games while supposedly exploring new concepts like arena-based tournaments, NFTs and even highlights for real-world games.
A decision is expected by the end of 2021, according to The Times, but EA is hedging its bets by registering an "EA Sports FC" trademark. EA and FIFA have declined to comment on the talks.
In that context, FIFA's statement may serve as a warning shot — see things our way or miss out on a valuable licensing agreement. While EA's existing clout might help a non-licensed game sell, there's little doubt a generic game would lose players hoping to control Mbappé or Messi in real clubs. EA won't necessarily bow to FIFA as a result. It might, however, be more aware of what's at stake if deal negotiations fall apart.
On Saturday, Mojang held its annual Minecraft Live fan convention. As in years past, the event saw the studio detail the future of its immensely popular sandbox game. And if you're a fan of Minecraft, the livestream did not disappoint.
The studio kicked off the event with the announcement of The Wild Update. Set to come out sometime in 2022, Mojang promises this latest DLC will change how players explore and interact with the game’s overworld. The update will introduce an entirely new swamp biome that includes mangroves players can pick fruit from and replant to nurture new plants.
The Deep Dark, which was previously planned for 2021, will now launch instead in 2022 alongside The Wild Update. First announced at Minecraft Live 2020, the DLC adds the Warden, a new enemy character that is one of the game’s scariest yet. Players who brave the DLC will find special new items only available in the deep dark.
In the meantime, fans can look forward to part two of the Caves and Cliffs update coming out later this year. In the first half of 2021, Mojang made the decision to split the update into two parts due to the complexity of the included features. At Minecraft Live, the studio said that was the right decision, in part because it allowed the team to take into consideration community feedback. As previously announced, the update will include expanded caves and biomes. It will also increase the height and depth limit of worlds.
Mojang hasn’t forgotten about Minecraft Dungeons. In December, the studio will introduce a new feature called Seasonal Adventures. Each week, you and your friends will have to chance to take on weekly challenges. As you complete them, you’ll earn progress towards a seasonal progression track that unlocks rewards like new skins, pets and emotes. Season One, The Cloudy Climb, will add a new Tower feature and adventure hub for players to explore.
Now is also the perfect time to either try Minecraft for the first time or return to the game after an extended break. On November 2nd, Microsoft will release a Minecraft bundle for Xbox Game Pass on PC. The pack includes both the Bedrock and Java editions of the game, with support for a single MSA log-in across both.
The updates come at a time when Minecraft has never been more popular. Just this past August, Mojang said more than 140 million players logged in to play the game, representing a new milestone for the title. Minecraft Live then was about positioning the game for a future where it continues to grow.
Themed gaming chairs aren't completely new, but this example is rather unusual. According to Windows Central, Microsoft and Mojang have collaborated with Secretlab on a Minecraft chair. The Minecraft Edition Titan Evo 2022 includes the obligatory game logos, but it's also made to look like you're sitting on one of the game's infamous Creepers. That sounds more than a little... creepy, but it might be just what you're looking for if you livestream Minecraft or otherwise want to advertise your fondness for the classic creative title.
And unlike the in-game Creepers, this chair shouldn't explode. This is Secretlab's first special-run chair to use the company's SoftWeave Plus fabric, which promises to blend durability with comfort. You might not have to worry quite so much about spills or tears ruining your gaming throne.
You can pre-order the Minecraft gaming chair today starting at $549 for small and regular versions, and $599 for XL. That's a lot to spend on any chair, especially a special edition — you might want to be sure your love of the game is more than just a short-term fling. If it is, though, the expense might be worthwhile to improve your comfort (and hopefully posture) for those lengthy world-building sessions.
You may soon be able to give McDonald's plant-based burgers a try. The fast-food chain will offer the McPlant at eight restaurants across the US starting on November 3rd and until supplies last. It's a limited-time trial run for the burger, and it's supposed to help the company figure out how having the item in its menu will impact its kitchen operations.
The burger's patty is made with Beyond Meat plant-based meat. It's supposed to be different from the company's patties offered by Carl's Jr., Del Taco and other fast-food chains, though, because Beyond Meat co-developed it with McDonald's itself. Back when the McPlant was first announced, the fast-food giant said it "delivers [its] iconic taste in a sink-your-teeth-in (and wipe-your-mouth) kind of sandwich. It’s made with a juicy, plant-based patty and served on a warm, sesame seed bun with all the classic toppings."
While McDonald's didn't mention the exact locations of the stores that will sell the McPlant, it said that they can be found in Irving and Carrollton, Texas, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jennings and Lake Charles, Louisiana and El Segundo and Manhattan Beach, California. McDonald's is also trialing the burger in other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and the UK. While the McPlant is simply a burger for now, McDonald's previously said that it could represent a whole line of plant-based menu items in the future, including chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches.
Analogue's Pocket handheld won't arrive until late this year, but the company is betting that its software will be worth the wait. TechCrunchnotes the company has detailed AnalogueOS, the platform the Pocket and future Analogue devices will run — and it's pitched as nothing less than the "definitive" OS for retro games, a way to showcase classics that haven't always received the kindest treatment.
Rather than simply play cartridge games, the Pocket and future hardware will tap into a library that provides all the useful data surrounding a game, ranging from box art and publisher data to guides. Pop in a cartridge and you'll learn about that particular version of a game. You might know if you scored a Nintendo World Championship cart or a bootleg, for instance. That database, in turn, will help you browse your library and even create "playlists" to share with fellow nostalgic gamers (who can buy the same cartridges, that is).
AnalogueOS will also track your play time and let you remap controls or enable Bluetooth gamepads. The Pocket will enable save states for cartridge games, which can be helpful if you're trying to recreate a thandheld's original experience.
This approach is meant for a particular variety of retro gamer focused on physical copies and authenticity. It's not as convenient as the digital downloads of, say, the Switch Online Expansion Pack. If it succeeds, though, it could shake up the category. Much of the information for vintage games is scattered across websites, code and even books. Analogue could put all that knowledge in a central location, albeit one limited to the most devoted players.
Introducing Analogue OS.
Analogue OS is the start of something big. At its heart, Analogue OS is purpose built for exploring and celebrating all of video game history. Designed to be the definitive, scholarly operating system for playing and experiencing the entire medium. pic.twitter.com/1YOvgij2V6
This week, we’ve got our regular gadget reviews plus our thoughts on a forthcoming video game. Cherlynn Low strapped on the Apple Watch Series 7 to see how it compares to the previous version and to find out how much of a difference the larger screen makes. Igor Bonifacic tested the 2021 Motorola Edge smartphone and found it offers a lot of high-end features — including a 144Hz display — at a budget-friendly price. Terrence O’Brien played with the effects and inputs on the Roland SP-404MKII and reported that it makes chopping samples more fun. Finally, Jess Conditt sat in the virtual driver’s seat to play Forza Horizon 5, a game she declares a perfect getaway in a time of travel restrictions.
Cherlynn Low acknowledges that the main difference between the Apple Watch Series 7 and the previous model is the larger screen, but she’s adamant that even this small change makes a big impact. The Series 7’s display is 20 percent larger than that of the Series 6, and has significantly smaller bezels. It’s also the first Apple Watch to be IP6X certified for dust resistance, making it more durable. Cherlynn said the larger display made things easier to read and navigate, and the extra screen space made it easier to enter in the right keys and see more of messages.
Apple also debuted some additional watch faces and a full QWERTY keyboard on the Series 7. Cherlynn says the new faces are designed to display more information at once. The full QWERTY keyboard provided more flexibility, but since she only got roughly a 60-percent accuracy rate when tapping on the display, Cherlynn said she still preferred using dictation. Apple still doesn’t offer advanced sleep tracking, though this model will log your respiration rate while you sleep and report back the next morning. If sleep tracking isn’t your main reason for wanting a smartwatch, Cherlynn says the Series 7 will be a satisfying purchase.
Of the various upgrades to the 2021 Motorola Edge, Igor Bonifacic thinks the 6.8-inch LCD 144Hz screen is the stand-out feature. The flat edges made it easier to hold and the improved refresh rate makes the Edge feel smooth and responsive. The screen is vibrant, bright and has support for HDR10, plus Igor says the 19.5:9 aspect ratio works well for scrolling through vertical apps. He also liked the move to a capacitive fingerprint scanner on the side-mounted power button because it made unlocking the phone while wearing a mask significantly easier.
However, there are some tradeoffs for the $550 smartphone, notably the LCD screen, which lacks the power efficiency and deep blacks that OLED can offer. The 144Hz display also produced some slight glitching. In addition, the device’s single speaker produced tinny sound, and he found the ultra-wide camera mediocre. But he did like the battery life, which lasted a whopping two days, and the extended 2-year software support. If you don’t mind a few compromises, Igor says the 2021 Edge is well worth checking out.
Though the new SP-404MKII sampler physically resembles previous versions, Terrence O’Brien says the new OLED screen and 16-pad layout are huge upgrades. The new display can show the actual waveform as it’s being edited, which makes recording and editing samples easier and more fun. And the 16-pad set up is not only more standard, but it also offers users more samples and patterns to make beats. Terrence also preferred the refreshed color scheme of grey and black with muted orange and white accents.
The SP-404MKII has a few more minor upgrades: it’s the first sampler in the line to feature velocity sensitive pads and it has MIDI out as well as MIDI IN connectors. This means the 404 can get hooked up to a PC via USB-C, or be used with external gear. Terrence played around with both the input effects, courtesy of the ¼-inch audio input and headphone jacks, as well as the bus effects and found that chopping samples on the machine is actually enjoyable instead of a chore. The SP-404MKII is also fairly portable: Terrence says it can fit in a bag easily enough and it can be powered with six AA batteries. And it's affordable at $500, which makes it a reasonable purchase even for those who are just looking to dabble in sampling.
Since she couldn’t get behind the wheel of a real-life 2021 Ford Bronco, Jess Conditt did the next best thing: she drove it around the race tracks and lush environments of Forza Horizon 5. Though she only had access to a preview build, she reports back that Horizon 5 is a mellower version of the motorsport game, spread across a fictionalized Mexico and featuring tricked out vehicles including a 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe and a 1989 Porsche 911 Desert Flyer.
Regardless of which vehicle you choose, Jess says they’re all magical to (virtually) drive. They get window cracks and door dents but are largely indestructible and always land tires-down. She also appreciated the layers of customization within the game, from accessories to creating characters to upgrading vehicles with designs. On the Xbox Series S, the game ran smoothly and looked lovely at 1080p/60fps. Jess says even without ray-tracing, Horizon 5’s distinct biomes, weather and environments were all a treat to view, making it a perfect virtual escape.
Amazon is the Standard Oil of the 21st century. Its business operations and global reach dwarf those of virtually every other company on the planet — and exceed the GDP of more than a few countries — illustrating the vital importance innovation has on the modern economy. In his latest book, The Exponential Age: How Accelerating Technology is Transforming Business, Politics and Society, author Azeem Azhar examines how the ever-increasing pace of technological progress is impacting, influencing — and often rebuilding — our social, political and economic mores from the ground up.
In 2020, Amazon turned twenty-six years old. Over the previous quarter of a century, the company had transformed shopping. With retail revenues in excess of $213 billion, it was larger than Germany’s Schwarz Gruppe, America’s Costco, and every British retailer. Only America’s Walmart, with more than half a trillion dollars of sales, was bigger. But Amazon was, by this time, far and away the world’s largest online retailer. Its online business was about eight times larger than Walmart’s. Amazon was more than just an online shop, however. Its huge operations in areas such as cloud computing, logistics, media, and hardware added a further $172 billion in sales.
At the heart of Amazon’s success is an annual research and development budget that reached a staggering $36 billion in 2019, and which is used to develop everything from robots to smart home assistants. This sum leaves other companies — and many governments — behind. It is not far off the UK government’s annual budget for research and development. The entire US government’s federal R&D budget for 2018 was only $134 billion.
Amazon spent more on R&D in 2018 than the US National Institutes of Health. Roche, the global pharmaceutical company renowned for its investment in research, spent a mere $12 billion in R&D in 2018. Meanwhile Tesco, the largest retailer in Britain — with annual sales in excess of £50 billion (approximately $70 billion) — had a research lab whose budget was in the “six figures” in 2016.
Perhaps more remarkable is the rate at which Amazon grew this budget. Ten years earlier, Amazon’s research budget was $1.2 billion. Over the course of the next decade, the firm increased its annual R&D budget by about 44 percent every year. As the 2010s went on, Amazon doubled down on its investments in research. In the words of Werner Vogels, the firm’s chief technology officer, if they stopped innovating they “would be out of business in ten to fifteen years.”
In the process, Amazon created a chasm between the old world and the new. The approach of traditional business was to rely on models that succeeded yesterday. They were based on a strategy that tomorrow might be a little different, but not markedly so.
This kind of linear thinking, rooted in the assumption that change takes decades and not months, may have worked in the past—but not anymore. Amazon understood the nature of the Exponential Age. The pace of change was accelerating; the companies that could harness the technologies of the new era would take off. And those that couldn’t keep up would be undone at remarkable speed.
This divergence between the old and the new is one example of what I call the “exponential gap.” On the one hand, there are technologies that develop at an exponential pace—and the companies, institutions, and communities that adapt to or harness those developments. On the other, there are the ideas and norms of the old world. The companies, institutions, and communities that can only adapt at an incremental pace. These get left behind—and fast.
The emergence of this gap is a consequence of exponential technology. Until the early 2010s, most companies assumed the cost of their inputs would remain pretty similar from year to year, perhaps with a nudge for inflation. The raw materials might fluctuate based on commodity markets, but their planning processes, institutionalized in management orthodoxy, could manage such volatility. But in the Exponential Age, one primary input for a company is its ability to process information. One of the main costs to process that data is computation. And the cost of computation didn’t rise each year; it declined rapidly. The underlying dynamics of how companies operate had shifted.
In Chapter 1, we explored how Moore’s Law amounts to a halving of the underlying cost of computation every couple of years. It means that every ten years, the cost of the processing that can be done by a computer will decline by a factor of one hundred. But the implications of this process stretch far beyond our personal laptop use—and far beyond the interests of any one laptop manufacturer.
In general, if an organization needs to do something that uses computation, and that task is too expensive today, it probably won’t be too expensive in a couple of years. For companies, this realization has deep significance. Firms that figured out that the effective price of computation was declining, even if the notional price of what they were buying was staying the same (or even rising), could plan, practice, and experiment with the near future in mind. Even if those futuristic activities were expensive now, they would become affordable soon enough. Organizations that understood this deflation, and planned for it, became well-positioned to take advantage of the Exponential Age.
If Amazon’s early recognition of this trend helped transform it into one of the most valuable companies in history, they were not alone. Many of the new digital giants—from Uber to Alibaba, Spotify to TikTok—took a similar path. And following in their footsteps were firms who understand how these processes apply in other sectors. The bosses at Tesla understood that the prices of electric vehicles might decline on an exponential curve, and launched the electric vehicle revolution. The founders of Impossible Foods understood how the expensive process of precision fermentation (which involves genetically modified microorganisms) would get cheaper and cheaper. Executives at space companies like Spire and Planet Labs understood this process would drive down the cost of putting satellites in orbit. Companies that didn’t adapt to exponential technology shifts, like much of the newspaper publishing industry, didn’t stand a chance.
We can visualize the gap by returning to our now-familiar exponential curve. As we’ve seen, individual technologies develop according to an S-curve, which begins by roughly following an exponential trajectory. And as we’ve seen, it starts off looking a bit humdrum. In those early days, exponential change is distinctly boring, and most people and organizations ignore it. At this point in the curve, the industry producing an exponential technology looks exciting to those in it, but like a backwater to everyone else. But at some point, the line of exponential change crosses that of linear change. Soon it reaches an inflection point. That shift in gear, which is both sudden and subtle, is hard to fathom.
Because, for all the visibility of exponential change, most of the institutions that make up our society follow a linear trajectory. Codified laws and unspoken social norms; legacy companies and NGOs; political systems and intergovernmental bodies—all have only ever known how to adapt incrementally. Stability is an important force within institutions. In fact, it’s built into them.
The gap between our institutions’ capacity to change and our new technologies’ accelerating speed is the defining consequence of our shift into the Exponential Age. On the one side, you have the new behaviors, relationships, and structures that are enabled by exponentially improving technologies, and the products and services built from them. On the other, you have the norms that have evolved or been designed to suit the needs of earlier configurations of technology. The gap leads to extreme tension. In the Exponential Age, this divergence is ongoing—and it is everywhere.
It's not just small companies facing Sony's wrath over aftermarket PlayStation 5 faceplates. Dbrand told The Verge it stopped selling its PS5 "Darkplates" after Sony issued a cease-and-desist letter earlier in the year threatening legal action over alleged design and trademark violations. Visit Dbrand's product page now and you'll only see links to news stories and testimonials.
Dbrand isn't going down quietly. In a Reddit thread, the company claimed it was submitting to the "terrorists' demands... for now." It believed customers had the right to modify hardware with third-party components, and speculated that Sony might be clamping down so that it can either sell its own covers or charge licensing fees. The company didn't definitively say it planned to resume sales, but did say it would "talk soon."
Whatever Dbrand's intentions, this takes away a major option (though not your only option) for customizing the PS5. The question is whether or not Sony can completely halt third-party faceplate sales. After all, the faceplates are designed to be easily removable and aren't much more than plastic sheets. Dbrand likened this to replacing a broken F-150 truck bumper with an aftermarket part — you have the right to choose the parts you use for fixes or cosmetic upgrades, and Ford can't sue simply because you're using an unofficial bumper. It won't be surprising if there's an eventual court battle over Sony's policy.
One of the more important missions to study the early Solar System is now underway. NASA has launched Lucy, a robotic spacecraft that will be the agency's first to explore the Trojan asteroids trapped near Jupiter's Lagrange points. They're considered "fossils" of planetary formation that will help understand the Solar System's evolution, much as Lucy the australopithecus helped humans understand their ancestors.
The spacecraft detached from a ULA Atlas V rocket about an hour after liftoff, successfully deploying its two 24-foot solar arrays. The vehicle is currently charging its batteries as it begins the first leg of its journey, an orbit around the Sun as it prepares for its first gravity assist around Earth in October 2022.
To call this a long mission would be an understatement. Lucy will return to Earth for another gravity assist in 2024, and won't see any asteroids until it swings by the Donaldjohanson asteroid (near the main asteroid belt) in 2025. The probe first visits its first swarm of Trojan asteroids, ahead of Jupiter, in 2027. It will then make four flybys before visiting Earth for a third gravity assist in 2031. It will finally visit the second swarm of asteroids in 2033.
You won't have to be quite so patient for every asteroid mission, at least. NASA will launch another explorer, Psyche, in 2022. The vehicle will arrive at the metallic asteroid (16) Psyche in 2026 and spend 21 months determining whether it represents the exposed core of an early planet or 'just' unmelted material. Lucy is the more ambitious of the two projects, though, and it may pay extra dividends if it sheds light on how the Solar System came to be.
The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station had to initiate emergency protocols after the spacecraft tilted and turned by 57 degrees on Friday. All is well now, but the Roscosmos and NASA ground teams had to spring to action and alert their personnel in space after noticing the change in orientation. According to The New York Times, the incident happened while cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky was testing the engines aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that's currently docked with the station.
NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier told the publication that "the thruster firing unexpectedly continued" when the engine testing was scheduled to end. By 5:13 AM Eastern time, the ISS lost control of its orbital positioning. Russian controllers in Moscow immediately told Novitsky that the station turned 57 degrees, while NASA's mission control in Houston told its astronauts to begin emergency procedures. Flight controllers were able to regain control of the station around 30 minutes later. The Soyuz spacecraft that caused the incident is expected to fly a Russian fillm crew — that same one that flew to the ISS to shoot the first feature film there earlier this month — back to Earth.
"During the Soyuz MS-18 engines testing, the station’s orientation was impacted. As a result, the International Space Station orientation was temporarily changed. The station’s orientation was swiftly recovered due to the actions of the ISS Russian Segment Chief Operating Control Group specialists. The station and the crew are in no danger," Roscosmos said in its announcement.
As The Times notes, this is the second such emergency on the station. Back in July, the thrusters on Russia's Nauka module fired "inadvertently and unexpectedly" causing the ISS to tilt by about 45 degrees. At the time, NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said the ISS lost "attitude control," which is also what happened in this case, and that the event was quite rare.