Sony buys US game studio to bolster PlayStation consoles

Sony buys US game studio to bolster PlayStation consoles
Sony on Thursday added Bluepoint Games to its stable of PlayStation studios, looking to crank out titles for its hot-selling consoles and keep its lead over rival Xbox. (AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2021

Sony buys US game studio to bolster PlayStation consoles

Sony buys US game studio to bolster PlayStation consoles
  • Sony did not disclose financial terms of the deal to acquire Texas-based Bluepoint
  • "We've been partners with PlayStation for many years," Bluepoint president said in a video posted on Twitter

SAN FRANCISCO: Sony on Thursday added Bluepoint Games to its stable of PlayStation studios, looking to crank out titles for its hot-selling consoles and keep its lead over rival Xbox.
Sony did not disclose financial terms of the deal to acquire Texas-based Bluepoint, a studio known for his remakes of video games including “Demon’s Souls” and “Uncharted.”
Bluepoint’s remake of action role-playing game “Demon’s Souls,” originally tailored for PlayStation 3, launched with the latest version of the console and sold 1.4 million copies, according to Sony.
“We’ve been partners with PlayStation for many years,” Bluepoint president Marco Thrush said in a video posted on Twitter.
“We believe this will empower Bluepoint to create even more incredible, impactful games for PlayStation Games.”
While known as a master at remaking beloved old games, Bluepoint’s latest project was said to be an “ambitious” original title.
More than 10 million PlayStation 5 consoles have been snapped up around the world since they hit the market in November of last year, according to Sony Interactive Entertainment.
In August, PS5 remained the fastest selling PlayStation in the company’s history, according to market tracker NPD Group.
Sony has been under pressure to deliver new games to play, while the pandemic has caused titles to be delayed.
Sony has been adding to its stable of game studios in recent months, buying Finnish developer Housemarque in June and Britain-based Firesprite in June.
In-house studios allow PlayStation to make titles exclusively for Sony consoles, keeping at bay rival Xbox made by Microsoft, which has its own stable of studios.
Nearly 12 million PS5 consoles were sold by the end of August, compared to 7.3 million of the latest generation of Xbox consoles, according to specialty website VGChartz.


YouTube Shorts celebrates first anniversary in MENA

YouTube Shorts celebrates first anniversary in MENA
Updated 38 sec ago

YouTube Shorts celebrates first anniversary in MENA

YouTube Shorts celebrates first anniversary in MENA

DUBAI: Short-form video has become all the rage, as evidenced by the popularity of social media platform TikTok. Building on this trend, one year ago, YouTube introduced its short-form content format “Shorts” in the MENA region. Since its global launch in 2020, YouTube Shorts has grown a community of more than 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users globally.

The platform is not only designed to engage users but also help creators and artists produce quick and easy content. “For artists, the path to success has never been more demanding, so we’re designing products like Shorts to make YouTube THE place for them to connect with their fans and grow long-term, sustainable music careers,” according to a company statement.

“Shorts have become an essential part of the YouTube experience for our creators and viewers,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer.

“While we’re still at the beginning of our journey with Shorts, we look forward to continuing to innovate the product so our creators can continue to express themselves, connect with their audiences, and increase their reach and revenue opportunities on the platform,” he added.

FAST FACTS

• YouTube Shorts are being watched by over 1.5 billion logged-in users every month.

• In April 2022, Shorts containing content sampled from long-form videos generated over 100 billion views.

• Despite having fewer long-form videos, Shorts allowed Azza Zarour to grow her subscribers by 43 percent.

The platform recently introduced new features to elevate Shorts. For example, video remixing allows creators to use content from YouTube and put their own spin on it using tools such as “cut” and “green screen.” With these tools, creators can use a 1- to 5-second video segment in their new Short, or a video segment of up to 60 seconds as the background for their new Short, from any eligible video-on-demand (VOD) or Short.

The platform has also enhanced its analytics dashboard, enabling creators and artists to see insights and performance data for specific content across YouTube’s different video formats, which include VOD, Live and Shorts.

The introduction of new formats has led to a new trend on the platform, the company said: the rise of the multiformat creator and artist. Rather than specializing in any one type of content format, creators today are moving between different formats to maximize their creativity and revenue.

In fact, channels uploading both Shorts and long-form content are seeing better overall watch time and subscriber growth relative to those only uploading long-form content.

TV personality Azza Zarour and video creator Fatoom Dababneh, who have over 3 million and 800,000 YouTube subscribers respectively, are adept at leveraging the different formats on the platform.

Zarour used Shorts to take her subscribers through her motherhood journey soon after she had a baby. Despite having fewer long-form videos, Shorts allowed Zarour to grow her subscribers by 43 percent.

“YouTube Shorts really gave me a new avenue of content and helped me grow my channel,” she said.

Beyond new features, YouTube is also incentivizing creators on the platform. Last year, it launched a $100 million global fund. Creators from the MENA region were eligible to participate and could earn between $100 and $10,000 each month with bonus amounts adjusted based on the channel’s Shorts total performance and audience location.

“It has been exciting seeing the different ways YouTube has helped MENA creators to share their stories with the world and Shorts is one of the many ways we hope to continue empowering them,” said Tarek Amin, head of YouTube in MENA.


15 Saudi CEOs featured in Forbes’ “Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East in 2022”

15 Saudi CEOs featured in Forbes’ “Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East in 2022”
Updated 57 min 50 sec ago

15 Saudi CEOs featured in Forbes’ “Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East in 2022”

15 Saudi CEOs featured in Forbes’ “Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East in 2022”
  • Aramco chief Amin Nasser emerged as this year’s number one for the second time in a row
  • UAE had the most entries at 19, followed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia with 16 and 15 entries, respectively

LONDON: Forbes revealed on Wednesday its “Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East” ranking, with 15 Saudi CEOs featured on this year’s list. 

The UAE dominates the list with 19 entries, followed by Egypt with 16 and Saudi Arabia with 15. 

Amin H. Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, topped the list for the second time in a row, followed by ADNOC’s Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber in second place and Emirates Group CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum in third place.

SONATRACH’s Toufik Hakkar, QatarEnergy’s Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi and Qatar Airways Group’s CEO Akbar Al-Baker dominate ranks four, five and six, respectively. 

This year’s list consists of CEOs from 26 different nationalities who manage companies that have a total combined revenue of over $5 trillion. 

Banking and financial services are the most represented sector on the list with 27 CEOs, followed by eight telecom CEOs and seven that each head energy and logistics companies. 

According to Forbes, the CEOs were ranked based on five criteria, including impact on the region, experience, size of company, achievements and innovations. 


Apple to add ‘lockdown’ safeguard on iPhones, iPads, Macs

Apple to add ‘lockdown’ safeguard on iPhones, iPads, Macs
Updated 07 July 2022

Apple to add ‘lockdown’ safeguard on iPhones, iPads, Macs

Apple to add ‘lockdown’ safeguard on iPhones, iPads, Macs
  • Apple adds 'lockdown' features for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers intended to protect against spyware
CUPERTINO, California: Apple said it will roll out a “lockdown” option for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers intended to protect against spyware unleashed by state-sponsored hackers — although enabling that protection will also make these devices less useful.
The safeguard announced Wednesday is a tacit acknowledgement that not even Apple — the world’s most valuable company — has been able to adequately shield the iPhone and its other products against intrusions from state-backed hackers and commercial spyware. Governments have used these tools to violate the privacy of journalists, political dissidents and human rights activists.
The new feature, called “lockdown mode,” will initially be offered as a test version so that security researchers can help Apple identify any bugs or weaknesses. Apple usually releases its major updates to its device operating systems in late September.
While only a handful of countries appear to have the resources to develop in-house mobile phone hacking tools, private companies like Israel’s NSO Group have been selling phone hacking software to government agencies around the world for years.
The growing hacker-for-hire problem prompted Apple to file a federal lawsuit late last year against NSO Group for breaking into iPhones and other Apple products. In its complaint, Apple accused NSO Group employees of being “amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.”
NSO, which has been blacklisted by the US Commerce Department, has denied any wrongdoing and said its products have been used to thwart child abusers and terrorists.
Unlike the security features that Apple builds into most of its software, the company’s lockdown feature is meant to serve as an emergency button that Apple expects will only be needed by a small number of its users.
The lockdown measure is considered a last resort for people targeted by spyware, since activating lockdown will disable many popular features. That includes sending attachments and links in texts, as well as the ability to receive FaceTime calls from new numbers. Web browsing will also be limited.
But Apple believes the extra layer of protection will be valuable to activists, journalists and other targets of hacking attacks launched by well-funded groups. Users will be able to activate and deactivate lockdown mode at will.
The growing use of encrypted communications through phone apps like WhatsApp and Signal have prompted governments to turn to commercial spyware vendors to gather information on targets.
Such mobile phone spyware vacuums up text messages, emails and photos while secretly controlling a smartphone’s microphones and cameras. Some of the more advanced tools can infect a phone using so-called “zero click” exploits that don’t depend on the user inadvertently activating them, such as by clicking on a malicious link.
Google, whose Android mobile phone platform is used by iPhone competitors, has also been targeted by commercial spyware vendors. The company’s Threat Analysis Group says it’s tracking more than 30 such companies and routinely publishes reports on exploits used to hack into phones, making them far less effective.
Google also offers an “Advanced Protection Program” that uses a special security key hardware to make user accounts harder to hack. The company said it strongly recommends the program for “journalists, activists, business executives, and people involved in elections.”
Separately, Apple also provided more details about a $10 million grant it pledged last November to help counter large-scale hacking attacks. The money will go to the Dignity and Justice Fund, a philanthropic arm of the Ford Foundation.

Dubai Film and TV Commission launches initiative to support Emirati screenwriters

Dubai Film and TV Commission launches initiative to support Emirati screenwriters
Updated 07 July 2022

Dubai Film and TV Commission launches initiative to support Emirati screenwriters

Dubai Film and TV Commission launches initiative to support Emirati screenwriters
  • The program builds upon the UAE and India’s long-standing relationship, which is marked by decades of cultural and social exchange

LONDON: The Dubai Film and TV Commission launched an initiative on Wednesday to support Emirati scriptwriters from across the UAE and abroad to produce scripts for Bollywood.

In partnership with leading Bollywood studios, the initiative “Ticket to Bollywood” is aimed at expanding Emirati talent in film and cinema.

“Bollywood has a special place in the hearts of natives and expats across the region. For decades, Indian culture, from food and fashion to film and song, have interacted with and influenced our own,” Saeed Aljanahi, director of operations at DFTC, said.

“We are delighted to enrich our relationship with greater cultural and creative engagement. This initiative aims to provide Emirati writers a chance to demonstrate their knowledge and appreciation for the industry with their personal touch, while gaining invaluable experience working alongside established writers and directors from one of the world’s biggest filmmaking industries.”

Those interested aged 18 years or older can register their interest, experience and portfolio via the DFTC website

Shortlisted applicants will then be asked to submit a story exploring topics of their choosing within drama, action, thriller or romance genres.

A panel of film industry experts will vet the submissions before selecting a number of outstanding writers to develop a feature-length script for the participating Bollywood studios.

The program builds upon the UAE and India’s long-standing relationship, which is marked by decades of cultural and social exchange.

Bollywood blockbusters like ‘“Happy New Year,” “Raees,” “Laxmmi Bomb” were filmed over the years in Dubai, many of which have also been enjoyed by local Arabic-speaking audiences.


INTERVIEW: Saudi women have beautiful, layered stories to tell, says Netflix exec

INTERVIEW: Saudi women have beautiful, layered stories to tell, says Netflix exec
Updated 06 July 2022

INTERVIEW: Saudi women have beautiful, layered stories to tell, says Netflix exec

INTERVIEW: Saudi women have beautiful, layered stories to tell, says Netflix exec
  • Nuha El-Tayeb discusses launch of Because She Created, a collection of 21 films by Arab women filmmakers

DUBAI: Netflix is launching a specially curated collection of 21 Arab films on July 7 titled “Because She Created.”

Featuring movies by female filmmakers, the collection includes documentaries as well as dramas and romance movies, amplifying the creative voices of Arab women filmmakers.

The filmmakers hail from diverse countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and more.

The Because She Created platform was first launched last year as a virtual panel discussion hosting Arab women filmmakers to talk about the evolving role of women in the regional film industry.

Netflix then teamed up with the Cairo International Film Festival to host the second edition of Because She Created as a fireside chat with renowned Tunisian actress Hend Sabry. Now, the streaming giant is using the platform to launch a specially curated collection of films that shine a spotlight on Arab women filmmakers.

“We have had women filmmakers, writers, producers and actors creating their own ripple in the regional entertainment industry for decades,” Nuha El-Tayeb, director of Content Acquisitions, Netflix MENA and Turkey, told Arab News.

“Filmmakers in the Arab world are more aware that in order to be seen they have to have authenticity, but also to deliver a universal story. There is a return of powerful female lead roles in commercial cinema, young creatives are breaking traditional gender boxes and women are finding more avenues to tell stories they haven’t been able to tell before,” she added.

Arab cinema has had a moment on the global stage in recent years. In 2019, Nadine Labaki became the first Arab woman to be nominated for best Foreign Language film at the Oscars through her title “Capernaum.” Still, there are gaps in the industry that need to be addressed.

One way to create more opportunities for women is to let them have more autonomy over their stories, El-Tayeb said. “Actors need to be more conscious of the narratives and stories they choose to be involved in, and demand better and more authentic portrayals for women in film.”

This is especially important given that there are fewer scripts written for female characters, while male characters “remain the motor of Arab cinema,” she said.

“We know that more women behind the camera has a ripple effect for women in front of it,” El-Tayeb added. Netflix recently renewed “AlRawabi School for Girls” and “Finding Ola” for another season. Both shows are spearheaded by female showrunners and have made it to Netflix top 10 lists around the world.

“The success of these shows has helped Arab talent, creators and storytellers reach new audiences, and instilled a sense of pride,” she said.

Since the lifting of the cinema ban in 2018, Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in the creative industries, allocating $64 billion toward the entertainment sector alone. During the Red Sea Film Festival last year, the Ministry of Investment announced that the Kingdom would support the production of 100 films by 2030.

The Saudi Film Commission also announced an incentive program earlier this year offering financial refunds of up to 40 percent for local and international producers shooting in the Kingdom.

“There’s incredible talent in Saudi Arabia,” said El-Tayeb. “The entertainment landscape is rapidly evolving and Saudi women — like other women from the Arab world and globally — have beautiful, complex and layered stories to tell.”

Netflix is already working with Arab women not only to help tell their stories, but also to amplify their voices in order to reach a global audience. In April, it partnered with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to grant five women Arab filmmakers $250,000 to bring their work to life.

The streaming giant has also worked with writer and director Hana Al-Omair on “Whispers,” an eight-part psychological thriller, as well as with Haifaa Al-Mansour on “Wadjda,” the first feature film made by a female Saudi director.

As Saudi women become more involved in government and private industries, El-Tayeb hopes that they “gain more autonomy over their stories and give more people a chance to see their lives reflected on screen.

“With more women behind the camera, we can also expect more Saudi women to play leading roles and carry films in a way they may not have had the opportunity to do before.”

One of the films featured in the collection is Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s “Sanctity,” which tells the story of a young Saudi widow who endures a world of hardship to protect her unborn child. 

The film was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlinale 2013, and won a Golden Aleph at the Beirut International Film Festival as well as a Development Award at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

For many, the topic of the film might seem somewhat controversial. But for Kamel, it is simply about what a woman would do without a man, and “I don’t see anything controversial about that,” she told Arab News.

The idea for the film was born out of Kamel’s personal experience. At the age of 14, when she lost her father, Kamel saw her mother struggle to pick up the pieces and manage the household.

“I wanted to explore the topic of what is a woman’s power and where it lies,” she said. “I truly believe women can endure way more than men and it’s something that I wanted to honor.”

Kamel, who is also an actor, grew up in the Kingdom when a career in the film industry was not even possible. She moved to the US to study filmmaking — her true passion — and acting happened by chance.

In her initial roles, Kamel was cast as a terrorist, and then “upgraded” to a refugee and CIA agent. Going from a terrorist to an anti-terrorism agent for an Arab Muslim woman in Hollywood might seem like progress, but Kamel said that it was tied to a “political idea, whether we are creating terrorism or fighting it.”

Despite these challenges, Kamel added that “you have to continue believing in what you believe in.”

The Kingdom’s transformation, in particular, “shifts the whole paradigm,” she said. “If we (women) can say that we are part of writing the history of our culture and of our country, that is something quite groundbreaking and amazing.”

Netflix’s Because She Created collection includes films both by established, award-winning filmmakers as well as new talent. It also hosts work from “several underrepresented parts of the Arab world” that deserve a wider audience, El-Tayeb said.

“With this collection, we want to showcase the diversity and depth of work by women filmmakers in the region,” she added.

“We hope that through the collection, people around the world get a peek into award-winning masterpieces, directorial debuts and several poignant stories by female Arab filmmakers all at once.”