1. AT&T Executives Are Thinking About Making Game of Thrones Episodes Only 20 Minutes Long (If You’re Watching On Your Phone)
If you live your life in a vacuum and use raw data to guide your every decision, then you would probably feel right at home at AT&T. You may be aware that AT&T is currently in the midst of a massive acquisition to absorb Time Warner, and that Time Warner is the corporate overlord of HBO…and therefore, AT&T will have a lot of influence on HBO and the way they distribute their content.
You might assume AT&T would understand that they may not have as nuanced an understanding of HBO’s content nor how people consume it as well as HBO does, and you would be totally right in that assumption. But apparently no one told AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson that, because he’s got some extremely stupid ideas for how to shape the future of HBO’s offerings – namely, making insanely popular hourlong dramas chopped down past the point of recognition for people watching on their phones.
Speaking at a telecom conference recently, Stephenson said:
“…think about things like ‘Game of Thrones.’ In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode.”
Stephenson was speaking off the cuff – there are no current plans (publicly known, at least) to do such an insanely stupid thing. But it does really highlight how much certain executives purely rely on data analytics devoid of context – Stephenson was likely referring to studies that show people tend to consume shorter videos when on their phones, so naturally assumed a shorter version of Game of Thrones would be even MORE popular….forgetting, of course, that Game of Thrones is popular for a reason – that reason being its incredible array of characters and plotlines and impressive ability to juggle everything (and every minute of every episode is pretty important, particularly going into the final season).
Although if they could release a version of Game of Thrones that speeds through the Bran scenes, I’d be pretty okay with that.
2. Sony Executives Have Decided To Release “Clean” Versions of Films Directly To the Public
Here’s something bizarre: Sony Pictures has a new initiative to provide “clean” versions of their movies to the public. By “clean” we mean edited down to remove anything objectionable – references to sex, swearing, violence, etc. These are literally the versions of the films that are approved for airplanes and network television – e.g. the much worse versions, that often remove bits and scenes that are essential to the movie’s foundation. Previously, this kind of thing had completely been the territory of third parties, but now it’s become officially-sanctioned – and a lot of people are (naturally) upset by this.
Holy shit please don’t do this to our movies. Thanks. https://t.co/0lpoESaIQd
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) June 6, 2017
The (very correct) concern Seth Rogen is speaking to is that this is done with no input or concern for the original creators or their vision for their work. And while most of the films on the initial slate of “clean” versions is mostly fine and will require very minimal editing, there are also films like Step Brothers, where the swearing and references to sex are ESSENTIAL. And in the end, it establishes a tricky precedent, where films are neutered in ways that destroy every reason they were made in the first place (like when Delta edited Cate Blanchett’s lesbian romance Carol to remove same-sex kissing).
The one thing giving us solace right now is that this scene will be preserved for all audiences:
3. Playstation Executives Don’t Think Anyone Wants Backwards Compatability Because Old Graphics Look Worse
Prior to the 2017 E3 event, Playstation executives sat down with Time Magazine to discuss where Playstation is right now, and where it’s going in the future. But a topic that came up was Playstation’s past – something global sales chief Jim Ryan didn’t much care for, particularly when it came to the issue of backwards compatability:
“When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”
To say this is an out-of-touch comment goes without saying – the games of PS1 and PS2 era aren’t all great, and many have aged badly, but there are tons of absolute classics and personal favorites strewn about there that are essential parts of gaming history, and Sony is choosing to just ignore that entirely. And while there is definitely a point to be made in the costs of making consoles backwards compatible is unreasonable given how many people would actually use it (after all, how many people still have their old PS1 and PS2 discs? And how many of those aren’t scratched to hell and back?), his comments of “why would anybody play this?” seem even more concerning – because it indicates Sony has no interest in virtual console-ing their library at all.
All this while the Xbox One IS going all in on backwards compatability – it’s a bad look:
Over half of Xbox One players have played a backwards compatible game.
Sony, take note. #XboxE3
— Ryan Brown #E32017 (@Toadsanime) June 11, 2017
I’ll leave you with this: there is NO way to digitally purchase Castlevania: Symphony of the Night right now at ALL except on the Xbox 360 marketplace. THAT IS MESSED UP.
4. Sony Executives Are Blocking PS4 Crossplay With Nintendo Switch and Xbox One Because Of…Reasons?
Crossplatform play has been one of the more exciting developments of the recent console generations – being able to play a game like Rocket League with your friends online, regardless of whether they were on console or PC, seemed darn revolutionary. It benefits everyone – from the developers to the players, and there are virtually no downsides. Unless you’re Sony, that is, and decide to block it for no reason.
E3 saw a lot of big announcements – like Minecraft going crossplatform…for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, mobile, and VR. Yep, mobile and VR can go crossplatform, but notably absent is Playstation. Same with Rocket League, which will soon be available for crossplatform play between PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Again, the one that’s missing is Playstation.
Eurogamer sat down with repeat-guest star Jim Ryan (wow, two appearances in one article!) to help shed some light on why Sony had taken this weird stance:
It’s certainly not a profound philosophical stance we have against this. We’ve done it in the past. We’re always open to conversations with any developer or publisher who wants to talk about it. Unfortunately it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.
So, not very enlightening. Ryan goes on to say that – particularly with games like Minecraft, that skew a little younger – they have a responsibility to their users to curate their experience and guard them from potential abuse or harassment, and they wouldn’t be able to control the environment as effectively if other users were interacting with Playstation players from another service. Still, that doesn’t seem like a reasonable enough argument, given Nintendo is onboard with this (and – much like Catcher in the Rye – eventually all videogame companies must accept that they cannot protect their players from every troll online).
And in case you thought it might have something to do with the actual developers of the games or the games themselves, Polygon was able to squash that thought pretty quickly – their talk with Psyonix’s VP of publishing Jeremy Dunham included this quote:
“Technically it’s possible. There are no technical limitations. Right now it’s just a political barrier we need to help figure out how to crack.”