Apple is about to announce some new services on Monday. While everybody expects a video streaming service as well as a news subscription, a new report from Bloomberg says that the company might also mention its gaming subscription.
Cheddar first reported back in January that Apple has been working on a gaming subscription. Users could pay a monthly subscription fee to access a library of games. We’re most likely talking about iOS games for the iPhone and iPad here.
Games are the most popular category on the App Store, so it makes sense to turn this category into a subscription business. And yet, most of them are free-to-play, ad-supported games. Apple doesn’t necessarily want to target those games in particular.
According to Bloomberg, the service will focus on paid games from third-party developers, such as Minecraft, NBA 2K games and the GTA franchise. Users would essentially pay to access this bundle of games. Apple would redistribute revenue to game developers based on how much time users spend within a game in particular.
It’s still unclear whether Apple will announce the service or launch it on Monday. The gaming industry is more fragmented than the movie and TV industry, so it makes sense to talk about the service publicly even if it’s not ready just yet.
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Japanese publisher Spike Chunsoft announced that the first official English translation of visual novel Chaos;Head Noah won’t be coming to Steam as planned “due to Steam’s guideline-required changes to the game’s content.” But while the game is apparently too risqué for Steam, the family-friendly folks at Nintendo apparently have no problem with a Switch version that Spike Chunsoft says will still launch in the US on October 7 as scheduled.
“Spike Chunsoft, Inc. believes these [Steam guideline-required] changes would not allow the game to be released to its standards,” the publisher said in its announcement. “The company is looking into delivering the title through alternative storefronts, and when details are decided will make another formal announcement. Until then your patience and understanding is appreciated.”
Chaos;Head Noah was initially listed for Steam pre-sale in April, but that page was taken down in August, according to tracking site SteamDB. At the time, that led to some concerns about the eventual fate of the Steam version, which Spike Chunsoft finally confirmed today.
Valve’s apparent push for content restrictions comes even though the extremely similar thematic sequel Chaos;Child has been available in English on Steam since 2019 (following its initial 2014 release in Japan on the Xbox One). The English PS4 version of Chaos;Child received an M for Mature rating from the ESRB, which described game scenes of strangling, torture, and “exposed brains” alongside sexual content like “two female characters moaning off screen while discussing each other’s breasts.”
How bad is it?
Chaos;Head Noah is an enhanced port of Chaos;Head, the game that launched the cult-classic Science Adventure series of visual novels (which also includes Steins;Gate and its sequels). The game follows a series of murders and suicides in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood and allows players to change the story progression by indulging in various positive or negative “delusions.” Some of those delusions can reportedly get extremely gory and/or suggest (but not directly show) imminent sexual violence.
“I don’t think it gets much worse than anything already in Steam’s library,” PQube Games Head of Localization Andrew Hodgson (who worked on the English translation of Steins;Gate) told Ars Technica of the “titillating and violent content” in the game. “It’s far from adult, even if it can be quite gruesome in certain scenes.”
The original Chaos;Head was originally released for Japanese PCs in 2008 before the enhanced Noah hit the Xbox 360 in 2009. That console port (and a later Vita re-release) received CERO Z content ratings in Japan, which “assumes that the game should not be sold or distributed to those younger than 18 years old” and is roughly equivalent to an ESRB “AO for Adults Only” rating in the US. CERO’s “content icon” system for that game only included a warning about “crime,” however, and not violence or sexual content.
Subsequent Japanese ports of Chaos;Head Noah for the PS3, PSP, Android, and iOS were heavily edited to remove some of the more extreme images and descriptions of violence. In turn, those ports received a lower CERO D rating (roughly equivalent to the ESRB’s “M for Mature” rating) in Japan. A source in the visual novel translation community (who asked to remain anonymous) confirmed that both the Switch and proposed Steam English-language versions of the game were based on this edited-down script.
A Japanese Chaos;Head port for the Nintendo Switch, released earlier this year, received the higher CERO Z rating (and “crime” content icon) despite using the edited version of the game that previously received a CERO D rating. The English translation will launch on Switch in the US next month, with an “M for Mature” rating and content descriptors that warn of “Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Language, [and] Intense Violence.”
A YouTube creator has gone on the offensive after facing an increasingly common problem on the platform: moderation and enforcement that leaves creators confused by the logic and short on their videos’ revenue potential.
The trouble centers on a longtime YouTube video host whose content is popular among the retro-gaming devotees at Ars Technica’s staff. The creator, who goes by the online handle “Summoning Salt,” chronicles the history of various classic games’ speedrunning world records. His hour-plus analyses demonstrate how different players approach older games and exploit various bugs. The games in question are typically cartoony 2D fare instead of violent or M-rated titles.
On Friday, Summoning Salt took to social media to claim that his latest 78-minute documentary about 1989’s Mega Man 2, which went live in mid-September, has been “age-restricted” by YouTube’s moderation system. Bizarrely, the video had been age-restricted roughly one week ago, only for YouTube to relent to the creator’s appeal and claim that the restriction had been placed in error.
Thus, Summoning Salt was surprised to learn on Friday that the video had been re-age-restricted—which he claims severely limits a creator’s ability to monetize content on YouTube. An age restriction flag works against content creators in two ways: it limits the advertisement pool that might run in pre-roll and mid-view breaks, and it essentially slams the door on YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which might otherwise tease Summoning Salt’s content to new viewers.
Remember, this is Mega Man 2 we’re talking about
YouTube’s initial notice did not clarify what moderation flag Summoning Salt’s latest video—a video that documents the 18-year history of people playing and exploiting the NES game Mega Man 2, embedded above—had triggered. His appeal eventually teased an answer from YouTube’s moderation team: “explicit language in certain parts.” As Summoning Salt explained, the video includes a three-second outburst of six F-words, taken directly from a Twitch streamer’s microphone during a passionate gameplay moment.
Summoning Salt, a speedrunning-fluent creator, took his analysis tools to the microsecond level and looked for other unrestricted YouTube content in the gaming category to see whether his video’s curses-per-capita percentage (0.16 percent) had been exceeded. He immediately found an unrestricted example from another popular retro-minded channel, Angry Video Game Nerd, which had nearly double the swears in a video one-twelfth as dense in the script. (It’s unclear how many of AVGN’s videos, famously full of curse words, are flagged with age restrictions.)
Ultimately, Summoning Salt points to YouTube’s unclear recommendations to content creators for content like curse words. According to YouTube’s own rules, the line between “moderate profanity” (allowed in YouTube’s unrestricted videos) and “strong profanity” comes down to not only specific word choice but also frequency, and YouTube merely suggests that the line is crossed when reaching a threshold of “used in every sentence,” or having certain swear words appear in prominent moments like the first 30 seconds of a video or as text in a thumbnail.
Summoning Salt noted that the moderation team initially responded with a “full review” in roughly 40 minutes, less than the length of the whole video. Such a swift review process implied that an auto-moderation system used voice analysis to chronicle the number of swear words, and Summoning Salt told Ars via email that YouTube has tools in place to auto-mute what it detects as offending content—but that YouTube doesn’t apply them in the case of age-restriction disputes. This leaves creators out of the revenue circuit once YouTube raises such a flag. He also told Ars that his videos have only been restricted in the past by YouTube due to copyright flags over included music, which he has zero issue with.
So-called cabinets of curiosities—aka wunderkammers (“wonder-rooms”)—were hugely popular in the 17th century. They were largely random collections of strange-yet-fascinating stuff, including natural history specimens, archaeological artifacts, religious or historical relics, the odd work of art, and any other quirky item that caught the cabinet creator’s fancy. The concept also inspired auteur director Guillermo del Toro when putting together a new anthology horror series for Netflix: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. The streaming platform just dropped the official trailer for the series, and it looks like just the right kind of fright fare to bring some stylishly spooky frissons to the Halloween season.
As we’ve reported previously, the series was first announced in 2018 and features eight episodes written and directed by filmmakers handpicked by del Toro. The list of directors includes Jennifer Kent, who directed 2014’s phenomenal The Babadook; her episode, “The Murmuring,” is based on an original story by del Toro and features Babadook star Essie Davis (aka Miss Fisher). “Dreams in the Witch House,” based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Twilight).
“Graveyard Rats” is directed by Vincenzo Natali (In the Tall Grass, Splice), while Guillermo Navarro (Narcos) directed “Lot 36,” also based on an original story by del Toro. Keith Thomas (Firestarter) directed “Pickman’s Model,” another episode based on a Lovecraft short story; David Prior (The Empty Man) directed “The Autopsy”; Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) directed “The Viewing”; and Ana Lily Amirpour—who directed the exquisite A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night—directed “The Outside.”
The star-studded cast includes Rupert Grint, Ben Barnes, Crispin Glover, Peter Weller, Kate Micucci, Nia Vardalos, David Hewlett, Demetrius Grosse, Sebastian Roche, F. Murray Abraham, Hannah Galway, Steve Agee, and Michael Therriault, among others.
Along with several simultaneously gorgeous and horrific images, we got a “first look” teaser in August, featuring del Toro talking about the project, especially its striking visual effects. “With Cabinet of Curiosities, what I’m trying to say is, ‘Look, the world is beautiful and horrible at exactly the same time,'” he said. That’s certainly the vibe we’re getting from the full trailer.
“Picture your mind as a cabinet where you lock up your darkest thoughts and deepest fears,” del Toro says in the opening voiceover. “What would happen if you opened that cabinet for the world to see? We are about to find out.” What follows is a cornucopia of scenes from each of the eight stories, all of which have their own distinctive look that nonetheless fits the overall “beautiful and horrible” aesthetic del Toro is aiming for.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities will be released on Netflix across a four-day event. Two episodes will be released on October 25, with two more episodes coming out each day through October 28.