Monthly Archives: April 2018

FTC warns companies that void warranties over using third-party services

The days of reading the small print to see whether a repair or new part for your ailing laptop will void its warranty may be coming to an end. The FTC has officially warned several companies that their policies of ceasing support when a user attempts “non-approved” repairs or servicing are likely illegal.

It’s the sort of thing where if you buy a device or car from a company, they inform you that unless you use approved, often internally branded parts, you’re voiding the warranty and your item will no longer be supported by the company.

The idea is that a company doesn’t want to be on the hook when a user replaces an old, perfectly good stick of RAM with a new, crappy one and then comes crying to them when the computer won’t boot. Or, in a more dire situation, replaces the brakes with some off-brand ones, which then fail and cause an accident. So there’s a reason these restrictions exist.

Unfortunately, they’ve come to encompass far more than these dangerous cases; perhaps you replace the RAM and then the power supply burns out — that’s not your fault, but because you didn’t use approved RAM the company takes no responsibility for the failure. The result is consumers end up having to buy components or servicing at inflated prices from “licensed” or “approved” dealers.

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” explained Thomas Pahl, from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the announcement.

The agency gave several examples of offending language in customer agreements, blanking out the names of the companies. Ars Technica was quick to connect these with the major companies they correspond to: Hyundai, Nintendo and Sony. Here are the statements the FTC didn’t like, with the company names in bold where they were blank before.

  • The use of Hyundai parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.
  • This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the PS4 altered, defaced, or removed.

It’s one thing to say, don’t overclock your PS4 or we won’t cover it. It’s quite another to say if the warranty seal has been “defaced” then we won’t cover it.

“Such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” the FTC announcement reads, and in addition “may be deceptive under the FTC Act.” The companies have 30 days to modify their policies.

This could be a major win for consumers: more repairs and service locations would be allowed under warranty, and modders of game consoles may be able to indulge their hobby without trying to hide it from the manufacturer. That will depend on the new phrasing of the companies’ policies, but this attention from the FTC will at the very least nudge things in the right direction.

Microsoft partners with Lightstream Studio to bring customization tools to Mixer streamers

Microsoft’s Twitch competitor, Mixer, is giving streamers a new way to customize their channels. The company has entered into a partnership with Lightstream Studio to allow Mixer streamers to add images, overlays, transitions, and text to their streams, or to switch between scenes. The goal is to make it easier for creators to give their streams a more professional look-and-feel, without requiring they have a lot of technical expertise.

Instead, the partnership will allow streamers to route their feed into the web-based Lightstream Studio, which can be accessed via a supported browser on a PC, Mac or tablet. On smartphones, the URL mixer.golightstream.com will allow streamers to use their phone as a remote control for changing their scenes.

For instance, gamers can use the Studio to create status screens like “Starting Soon,” or “Be Right Back,” then quickly rotate through them, as needed.

Streamers can direct their streams to Lightstream Studio from their mobile devices, PC, or their Xbox native broadcast.

The support for native Xbox streams is what’s got streamers most excited, however.

Microsoft says the integration will not impact the other third-party services Mixer streamers today use for alerts, like StreamLabs, StreamJar or Tipeeestream, as they can link those accounts within their Lightstream settings.

Microsoft has been rolling out a number of new features for Mixer in recent months, in an effort to bring its service more on par with Amazon-owned Twitch, the leader in game streaming in terms of both concurrent streamers and viewers, as well as rival YouTube Gaming.

This year, for example, Mixer introduced game sales as another means of helping streamers generate revenue from their channels, and it announced support for direct tipping. Many of these features are about Mixer playing catch-up, though, rather than coming out with something new.

Adding overlaid content to a stream to make it look more polished and professional is something that Twitch today supports through its extensions platform. It currently has over 150 different extensions, including things like stream schedules, countdowns, reminders, polls, and more. And some portion of those extensions became available on mobile just last month.

Lightstream Studio is not quite the same, as it a partnership with a third-party rather than a built-in offering, but it will give streamers some similar options thanks to its support of third-party tools for adding stream alerts. 

Lightstream Studio is first being offered in beta to Partners and Pro users to test, before rolling out more broadly.

The entire Myst series will be re-released for Windows 10

Myst holds a special place in the hearts of many. Released in 1993, it was unlike any video game most had seen at the time — and yet, its DNA lingers in countless games released today. It was also the game that made tens of thousands of kids beg their parents for a CD drive.

With the game’s 25th anniversary just months away, Myst has found itself in a place no one could have predicted in ’93: Kickstarter.

The game’s original developers, Cyan, have managed to get the rights to all seven games in the Myst universe, and have turned to Kickstarter to re-release it as one big box set. After launching this morning with a target of raising $247,500 dollars, it’s already smashed through its goal and is currently sitting a bit shy of $500,000.

The games included in the set:

  • Myst: Masterpiece edition
  • Riven: The sequel to Myst
  • Myst 3: Exile
  • Myst 4: Revelation
  • Myst 5: End of Ages
  • Uru: Complete Chronicles
  • realMyst: Masterpiece (the 3D Myst re-make released in 2000)

$49 gets you digital copies of each game, while $99 gets you DVD copies in a box built to look like a Myst book. Tiers above that include a bunch of real-world goodies, from a recreation of Gehn’s in-game pen/inkwell to original, hand-drawn concept art.

Oh, and they built a friggin’ Linking book, complete with a 800×480 LCD screen that plays video fly-throughs of the game’s environments when the book is opened. (For the unfamiliar: in the Myst universe, “Linking books” transport those that touch the book to a far-off destination.)

They’ve updated the games to work on “modern systems,, but there’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation there. The good news: it’ll work on Windows 10. The bad news: most of the games won’t work on MacOS. That’s a bit of a drag, given that the series started its life on the Mac — but Cyan says getting everything running on the Mac would take resources they “just don’t have.” Cyan notes that while they’ll continue to sell the updated games once the Kickstarter is over, the special box set is a Kickstarter-only deal.

As arstechnica points out, much of the Myst series is already available for Windows 10 — only Myst III and IV had never been updated for compatibility, as the rights were held by a different publisher. But this Kickstarter brings it all together for a whole new generation, with some real-world treats thrown in for the longtime fans.