A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Has Google just changed video games forever? Netflix says no to Apple. And eating Elmo.
Always Be Watching is by Dan Barrett who would never eat his best friend Grover. Well, probably not.
Today Google may have just changed the future of video games forever. With its just-announced product Stadia, gamers will be able to stream video games online using just a Google Chromecast and a video game controller. It’ll be like Netflix, but for video games.
Before you get too excited, understand that this isn’t a product that is ready made for most consumers in 2019. This is a forward-looking product that is really being built for a 5G-connected world. Current Internet connections for a lot of people will not be fast enough to support it.
Stadia will stream games in 4K at 60 frames per second in HDR with surround sound over a 25 Mbps internet connection. For now, it only works over Wi-Fi, but Google expects it to work on 5G connections in the future. You don't need to download a game and no special hardware is required — other than a $35 Chromecast to play on a TV.
25Mbps is faster than my current connection and, in Australia where we have the NBN rolling-out, is set to be considered as an entry-level broadband speed on high-speed Internet systems.
Stadia isn’t just taking a swing at replacing video game consoles, but it will also work actively to take a bite out of the Amazon-owned Twitch - an online video streaming site where gamers can watch other people live-streaming their own gaming. Mid-game on Stadia, viewers will be able to flick between YouTube and the game - in part for online tutorials on how to move past difficult moments in a game.
Google might not be known as a gaming company, but people watched more than 50 billion hours of gaming on its YouTube service in 2018. And every day, 200 million people watch games on YouTube.
THE BIG PICTURE: This sounds cool as heck. But, keep in mind that this is really forward-looking and the 5G networks that will really make this possible won’t actively be rolled out for consumers to use en masse for a couple of years yet. By the time that’s a reality, I would very much doubt Google will be the leaders in this space.
Yesterday’s ABW newsletter mentioned the open house press event that was being staged by Netflix. The event was still underway when the newsletter came out, so there’s a few more things yet to share from the event…
You know the image titles that you see when you log onto Netflix - they’re often changing with different images to promote shows. What happens here is Netflix has assigned you into a bucket of similar viewers - the more viewers from that group click on certain images, the more steadfast Netflix becomes in serving up that image as it believes that is the image that is most likely to convince you to click on it.
Confirming what we expected: Apple won’t have Netflix shows as part of its new streaming service.
“Apple is a great company,” Hastings said. However, Netflix wanted to control its experience within its own app, which is why it wasn’t working with Apple. “We have chosen not to integrate into their services.”
I still haven’t yet watched new Netflix series Dating Around (probably this weekend), but I was quite taken with this NYT review. It highlights what attracted me to want to watch the show which is that it isn’t a reality game show, but rather it shows us an actual reality. It reminds us that people on dates can actually be a bit boring and dates overly familiar.
First dates are inherently dramatic, even when they’re dull. The atmospheric nerves — choosing an outfit, worrying you’ve said something dumb — easily create enough tension to carry a 30-minute television show. What’s most revealing about “Dating Around,” though, is the way it’s structured. The lead dater wears the same outfit and eats five different meals at the same restaurant. This allows the five dates to be edited into one four-dimensional hyperdate. Rather than showing each date in succession, episodes are organized into three segments — drinks, followed by dinner, then “after hours,” during which daters may respectfully part ways or head onward to a bar — with all the dates interwoven so they all appear to have happened in a single evening. It’s as if Ashley has body-swapped with Kate on her bathroom break, over and over and over again. All dating shows are contrived, but the contrivances on “Dating Around” are not preposterous, designed to shock or entertain — in fact, they’re depressingly familiar.
The last Blockbuster on earth is making a big deal about its status as the last. It will now sell t-shirts and other memorabilia.
In order to stay financially viable, the store, behind the counter, has done everything it could in the past to keep costs down. Apparently that is possible if you don’t update any systems since, what I would guess, was 1995:
The computer system must be rebooted using floppy disks that only the general manager — a solid member of Gen X — knows how to use. The dot-matrix printer broke, so employees write out membership cards by hand. And the store’s business transactions are backed up on a reel-to-reel tape that can’t be replaced because Radio Shack went out of business.
Look, I even find it strange typing these words, but there’s a very good argument to be made that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was the best movie of last year. Yeah, I know. But it is actually remarkably good cinema. The film is ready to hit home video and the Bluray has an interesting special feature - an entirely different cut of the movie with different storylines. Don’t expect a completely polished version of a movie however - a lot of the scenes will be animatics rather than finished animation.