Microsoft signs Japanese licensing agreement amid Activision deal
BRUSSELS, March 15 (Reuters) – Microsoft (MSFT.O) signed a 10-year licensing deal to bring Activision’s (ATVI.O) Call of Duty franchise to Japanese cloud gaming provider Ubitus on Wednesday, the latest move by the company to address regulatory worries about its bid for the games maker.
While Xbox maker Microsoft is likely to secure EU antitrust approval for acquiring Activision with such licensing deals and other behavioural remedies, it is facing headwinds in the United States and Britain.
“Microsoft and Ubitus, a leading cloud gaming provider, have signed a 10-year partnership to stream Xbox PC Games as well as Activision Blizzard titles after the acquisition closes,” the chief executive of Microsoft’s gaming division, Phil Spencer, said in a tweet.
The company agreed a similar deal with cloud gaming provider Boosteroid a day earlier, on top of agreements with Nvidia (NVDA.O), Nintendo (7974.T) and U.S. distributor Valve Corp, owner of the world’s largest video game distribution platform, Steam.
New film by Calgary's Tank Standing Buffalo streams on HBO | CTV News – CTV News Calgary
A Calgary animator’s newest cartoon started streaming Thursday night on HBO Max.
Tank Standing Buffalo’s MONSTR was one of eight animated shorts chosen from more than 1,200 submissions to be part of the HBO Max series Only You: An Animated Shorts Collection.
MONSTR deals with Standing Buffalo’s fight with inner demons while apprenticing with a northwest totem carver following the death of his wife Marsha.
“My partner Marsha died suddenly in my arms of a brain aneurysm,” Standing Buffalo said in a release. “One moment she was there, the next she was gone. Without her, I was lost.
“I left Calgary to walk the west coast until I couldn’t walk, and ended up on carver Phil Ashbee’s doorstep. He saw I was in trouble, and took me in. I began a tough year-and -a-half apprenticeship, learning from him and another carver. The teachings were harsh, but helped me to heal.
Tank Standing Buffalo’s next project MONSTR is part of an HBO Max program for animators
“MONSTR takes place during my time with Phil, and brings to life how I confronted the grief of Marsha’s passing. It is my story, one only I can tell.”
Standing Buffalo worked with co-writer Xstine Coo, producer Amanda Miller and composers Cara Adu-Darko and Brandon Smith on the film, which features music by Walter MacDonald White Bear.
The film features the voices of Corey Feldman and Tristan Risk.
It’s Standing Buffalo’s third animated short, following RKLSS (2020), which screened at TIFF, and SAVJ (2021), which is currently being screened at a variety of film festivals.
HBO flew Standing Buffalo to Los Angeles for the Hollywood premiere of MONSTR Tuesday night.
Scene from MONSTR by Tank Standing Buffalo
In his artist statement, Standing Buffalo said art has literally saved his life – and his emergence as a rising animation star was launched by a scholarship he received to attend a Calgary animation workshop.
“I came to love animation six years ago when I received a scholarship through Quickdraw Animation Society in Calgary,” he said. “I am a person who thrives on routine and discipline. I appreciate the meditative repetition required to create animation.
“Through making my first two autobiographical shorts with monster and fantasy elements, I’ve found telling my story through animation is a form of time travel; my art is healing the person who I was in the past.”
Databricks pushes open-source chatbot as cheaper ChatGPT alternative
March 24 (Reuters) – Databricks, a San Francisco-based startup last valued at $38 billion, on Friday released open-source code that it said companies could use to create their own chatbots along the lines of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
The code is an AI model, an algorithm that is trained on sets of data and can then learn from new data to perform a variety of tasks.
Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi said the release was aimed at demonstrating a viable alternative to training a kind of AI model called a large language model with enormous resources and computing power.
A large language model underpins OpenAI’s viral chatbot ChatGPT. OpenAI, valued at $29 billion, trains its AI models with huge troves of data on a supercomputer from investor Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O). The computing costs are “eye-watering”, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has said.
OpenAI charges business for access to its models for their own applications and has projected $1 billion in sales by 2024.
Databricks’ effort comes with caveats. Ghodsi told Reuters that, while the open-source chatbot displayed impressive capabilities at such tasks as drafting blog posts, the company had not released formal benchmark tests to show that the bot matched ChatGPT’s performance.
Databricks sells cloud-based data mining and analytics software to businesses and said last year it had surpassed $1 billion in annualized revenue.
Databricks wants enterprises to train their own AI models using its software. Ghodsi said the company’s researchers had taken a two-year-old model that was freely available and trained it with a small amount of data for three hours on single computer that anyone with a credit card could rent.
“The future will be that everyone has their own model, and they can actually train it, and they can make it better,” Ghodsi said. “And that way, they also don’t have to give away their data to someone else.”
Databricks’ move comes at a time when startups are raising millions of dollars of venture capital investment to train their AI models and as big tech firms such as Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Meta Platforms (META.O) rush to shrink the size and cost of AI models while improving their accuracy.
“My belief is that in the end, you will make these models smaller, smaller and smaller, and they will be open-sourced,” Ghodsi said. “Everyone will have them.”
British regulator softens stance on Microsoft-Activision deal competition concerns
Shares of Activision Blizzard surged Friday, after the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority narrowed the scope of its investigation into Microsoft‘s takeover of the games publisher.
The development marks a partial win for Microsoft, as it pursues an expansion of its video game business. The Redmond, Washington-based technology giant has deepened its focus on gaming through blockbuster acquisitions, such as its purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks.
In February, the CMA published provisional findings from its probe into the takeover, stating at the time that the transaction may result in higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation. Among its concerns, the regulator flagged that the deal would cause a substantial lessening of competition in the console gaming market.
Since then, the regulator has received a “significant amount” of feedback from various industry participants on the deal. With this new evidence, the CMA now says it no longer believes the transaction will hamper competition in console games.
“Having considered the additional evidence provided, we have now provisionally concluded that the merger will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in console gaming services because the cost to Microsoft of withholding Call of Duty from PlayStation would outweigh any gains from taking such action,” Martin Coleman, chair of the independent panel of experts conducting the CMA investigation, said in a statement Friday.
“Our provisional view that this deal raises concerns in the cloud gaming market is not affected by today’s announcement. Our investigation remains on course for completion by the end of April.”
Shares of Activision Blizzard surged more than 6% in U.S. premarket trading. Microsoft shares declined slightly amid a broad market slump.
‘Call of Duty’ distribution in focus
The CMA announcement comes after the U.S. technology giant has also won support from some companies that were against the deal, or sitting on the fence.
One of the major concerns from Microsoft’s competitors was that the transaction would block distribution access to Activision’s crown jewel franchise — “Call of Duty.” Last month, Microsoft said it signed a “binding 10-year legal agreement” to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo players on the same day as Microsoft’s Xbox, “with full feature and content parity.”
Additionally, Microsoft signed a deal with Nvidia to bring its Xbox games to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service. Microsoft said it would also bring the Activision games library to Nvidia’s service, if the acquisition closes. Nvidia was reportedly against Microsoft’s Activision takeover.
But Microsoft has yet to bring onside its biggest rival, Sony, which owns the PlayStation console. Microsoft President Brad Smith told CNBC last month that the company is offering Sony the same agreement as it did Nintendo — to make Call of Duty available on PlayStation at the same time as on Xbox, with the same features. Sony still opposes the deal.
“We appreciate the CMA’s rigorous and thorough evaluation of the evidence and welcome its updated provisional findings,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC via email.
“This deal will provide more players with more choice in how they play Call of Duty and their favorite games. We look forward to working with the CMA to resolve any outstanding concerns.”
An Activision spokesperson told CNBC that the CMA’s updated provisional findings “show an improved understanding of the console gaming market and demonstrate a commitment to supporting players and competition.”
“Sony’s campaign to protect its dominance by blocking our merger can’t overcome the facts, and Microsoft has already presented effective and enforceable remedies to address each of the CMA’s remaining concerns. We know this deal will benefit competition, innovation, and consumers in the UK.”
Microsoft is not completely off the hook.
The CMA says it still has reservations about the deal as it pertains to cloud gaming, where delivery of games content is handled from remote servers rather than from a device’s internal memory. Notably, cloud gaming is still in its infancy and not yet a mass-market technology.
In its provisional conclusions, the CMA suggested that Microsoft may need to divest part or all of Activision — or its CoD franchise alone — to resolve its concerns. The CMA did not provide an update as to whether it believes this remains a potential resolution.
The watchdog will make its final decision on April 26.
Microsoft also still faces uncertainty from regulators in the U.S. and European Union. Smith travelled to Brussels last month to meet with EU regulators. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust case against Microsoft attempting to block the Activision deal.
Some major companies retain reservations about the acquisition, which includes Google parent Alphabet, according to Bloomberg.
– CNBC’s Steve Kovach contributed to this report
New York Fed board member warns of commercial real-estate risks – Reuters
Large asteroid to zoom between Earth and Moon – Al Jazeera English
China's Mysteriously Resilient Real Estate Prices: New Economy Saturday – Bloomberg – Bloomberg
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Art16 hours ago
Gagosian’s DALL-E–Enabled Art Exhibition Throws Us Headfirst into the Uncanny Valley
Business23 hours ago
Stock market today: Stocks open lower as further bank-related fears percolate
Investment16 hours ago
Here’s how much money you’d have if you invested $1,000 in Nike 10 years ago
Economy22 hours ago
Economy headed into a ‘Bermuda Triangle’ financial crisis: Nouriel Roubini
Media22 hours ago
4 ways to use social media to advance your career
Health11 hours ago
Nearby regions report spike in whopping cough – BlackburnNews.com
News20 hours ago
What can I give on Mother’s Day?
Business24 hours ago
Banking crisis lingers as contagion fears take aim at Deutsche Bank