AT&T is mulling offering wireless phone plans that would be subsidized in part by ads, CEO John Stankey said in an interview with Reuters.
“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said. The new plans could be offered beginning in “a year or two,” according to Stankey.
AT&T has experimented with at least one form of brand-subsidized phone plan in the past, though it didn’t exactly pass along the savings to you. The “Sponsored Data” program, which was announced back in 2014, let brands pay AT&T so they could deliver their content without counting against your data cap. This sounds like it would be something different, though, directly showing ads to users in some way.
And while it’s unclear exactly what form the ads on this apparent new plan will take, perhaps they’ll look something like what Amazon did with its “Prime Exclusive Phones” — offering a discount on mid-range phones but showing personal ads on the lock screen as the tradeoff.
Phone plans aren’t the only services AT&T plans to subsidize with ads — Stankey has already said that AT&T’s WarnerMedia plans to launch an ad-supported tier of HBO Max, its premium subscription service, early next year.
FarmVille foreclosed on Facebook – Sports Grind Entertainment
All good things, and Farmville, must come to an end.
Zynga’s first big hit is sunsetting on its original platform, Facebook. And remember when that was a thing? The free-to-play lifestyle sim’s sequel, Farmville 2, is still running on mobile however, although its core demographic is, shall we say, well outside of the readership here.
Zynga’s support blog this morning said that FarmVille will close for good by Dec. 31, when Adobe stops distributing and supporting the Flash Player that the game uses for its web browser versions. Facebook will consequently stop supporting Flash games, and so bye-bye FarmVille.
“We’re aware that many of you have been with us since the very beginning, helping to build an incredible global community of players over the years who’ve enjoyed this game just as much as we have,” the message said. “For that we say thank you.”
Social gaming, as a genre and platform, took off in 2009, around the time FarmVille launched. It surged to nearly 73 million monthly active users that year, according to AdWeek. At the time, that was 20 percent of Facebook’s own installation base.
The social games craze peaked with Zynga’s $7 billion initial public offering in December 2011. By that point, many big games publishers had Facebook adaptations of their most recognizable franchises, especially Electronic Arts, whose former president of EA Games (Frank Gibeau) has been Zynga’s chief executive since 2016.
Zynga’s stock plunged after its first three months on the NASDAQ, but its latest share price is actually more than half of the company’s all-time high.
Sports Grind Entertainment reached out to Zynga for final numbers on its Facebook player base, but a company spokesperson said Zynga does “not break out audience size by game.” But in 2013, the company released an infographic boasting a 40 million monthly active player count for FarmVille 2.
Farmville was followed by a 2012 sequel FarmVille 2, which likewise is still available on mobile devices. Both became a mainstream craze and were frequently linked to sensational news stories about gaming-addicted parents who otherwise weren’t typical video gamers. Zynga applied the -Ville suffix to several other builders and lifestyle sims that have since closed, including CityVille, CastleVille, ChefVille, FishVille and, simply, The Ville.
Zynga said that in-app purchases on the Facebook game will be available until Nov. 17, when the payment system will be shut down. That means refunds will not be processed after that date, either. The game will remain playable until Dec. 31, so anyone with credits left in the game should spend them out before then.
“We are also working on fun in-game activities to be announced soon that are designed to make your remaining time with FarmVille even more enjoyable,” Zynga said.
FarmVille 2: Country Escape and FarmVille 2: Tropic Escape are still available for iOS and Android devices, and Zynga says they’ll be followed soon by FarmVille 3 on the same platforms.
The first CGI Lupin III movie is coming to U.S. theaters in October
For Americans anime fans, it’s been a long wait for the first CGI Lupin III movie, Lupin III: The First, which came out in Japan in 2019, and has been announced as coming to the States “soon” since early 2020. Culture junkies aren’t exactly patient or reasonable these days about waiting for new releases to fill their frustrating quarantine days, especially as so many promised films have been delayed by months or moved off the calendar entirely, and so many studios are hedging their bets due to the dire warnings about the safety of going to movies during a pandemic. So the arrival of a release date for Lupin III: The First is welcome — except that it’s only coming to theaters for now, and only for two nights in October.
GKIDS announced via press release on Monday that the film — the latest in a long series of animated and printed adventures about cocky gentleman thief Lupin III, who was first introduced in 1967 — will screen as a Fathom theatrical event. The English dubbed version of the film will play on Sunday, October 18, and the subtitled version screens on Wednesday, October 21. (Theater details and tickets are available via GKIDS’ site.) The film will be available for digital streaming rental in December, though a specific date hasn’t been announced. A new trailer accompanied the announcement, laying out the plot in more detail: this time around, Lupin III and his friends are chasing an elaborate mechanical diary that supposedly holds the key to a secret World War II treasure. Unfortunately, a group of Nazis are also chasing the same treasure.
The English dubbed version of the same trailer is here.
It’s clear from previous Lupin III trailers and the recent teasers below that the film was made for the big screen: it’s full of big, energetic action and vivid color. Like the decades of previous movies and shows centering on Lupin III, the new movie aims at being thrilling and funny, as Lupin, his sidekick Jigen, their samurai ally Goemon, their rival Fujiko, and their archenemy Zenigata all chase the diary and each other. There’s a mild culture-shock element to seeing these familiar characters rendered at this level of detail — they’ve evolved considerably since 1967, but they’ve never been this detailed before. But the characterizations and humor are as familiar and engaging as ever.
And for dub fans, YouTube also has the dubbed versions of the same teasers.
Update (Sept. 28): Updated throughout to reflect the new trailer and added release date.
The Home Depot is selling Google’s new Chromecast before it’s been announced
Google’s Pixel 5 event is scheduled for this Wednesday, but some of the company’s other new gadgets are already appearing on store shelves. That includes its all-new Chromecast, which some savvy buyers have been able to purchase directly in-store from retailers like Walmart and The Home Depot over the course of the last week.
The Sports Grind Entertainment has purchased one such device from The Home Depot and can confirm the retailer is not stopping customers from checking out and taking the pre-release product home.
Not all stores appear to be selling the item; we tried two and only found the new Chromecast at a second location. And inputting the universal product code listed on the receipt into the retailer’s website returns no results, so it would appear you can only purchase it early in person.
The receipt doesn’t even say Chromecast on it; it just lists the device as “SABRINA-ABBEY ROCK CANDY,” which is the hardware’s codename (and another clue that the Chromecast is being sold ahead of schedule). Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
We’ve seen plenty about the new streaming dongle pop up in leaks, including its new oval design and Google’s first dedicated Chromecast remote. But thanks to these early sales, we’re getting a whole lot more information than we usually do ahead of release. Here are some big takeaways, gleaned both from our own experience and that of others who’ve held Q&A’s on Reddit and elsewhere:
- The device costs $49.99
- The codename is indeed “Sabrina,” as early leaks suggest because it’s printed on the receipt itself (in full as Sabrina-Abbey, although it’s unclear exactly what Abbey means or what it may be referencing)
- It comes in a white finish that Google calls “snow”
- It runs a rebranded version of Android TV called Google TV (not to be confused with Google’s other defunct smart TV platform of the same name first released 10 years ago)
We’ll have more to share about the new Chromecast soon. Google’s official Pixel 5 hardware event — where it plans to announce the new Chromecast alongside other new hardware, including a speaker from Nest — is scheduled for 2PM ET on Wednesday, September 30th.
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