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Justice League Snyder Cut Is a Missed Opportunity for HBO Max

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Justice League Snyder Cut Is a Missed Opportunity for HBO Max
Justice League Snyder Cut — the heavily-anticipated four-hour director’s cut of Justice League from director Zack Snyder, assembled from hours of unused footage — is finally out this Thursday, March 18 worldwide. It’s become a reality primarily thanks to a dedicated years-long fan-driven social media campaign — one that has resulted in a mountain of vitriol for any who offered the remotest critique of Snyder’s approach to superhero movies. The other (bigger financial) reason has been the existence of HBO Max, a little-known streaming service owned by WarnerMedia, the American entertainment giant that also owns Justice League studio Warner Bros., which in turn owns DC Comics itself.In May last year, a week prior to its launch in the US, HBO Max announced that it would make Justice League Snyder Cut — then considered a pipe dream and a mythical thing that existed in the minds of DC fans (and on Snyder’s laptop as a work-in-progress) — actually happen. For HBO Max, it was a way of proclaiming that it was not just listening to the fans, but willing to cater to their demands. To that end, HBO Max would eventually end up pumping in $70 million (about Rs. 508 crores) to help Snyder finish his version of the movie. In return, it’d hope to generate good faith for HBO Max, the “exclusive” home to Justice League Snyder Cut. Essentially, it was a marketing tactic to gain more subscribers.

Justice League Snyder Cut Review: Overambitious, Strange, and Indulgent

And boy has it needed them. As per latest available numbers, HBO Max had over 17.2 million active paying subscribers at the end of 2020 — in what is roughly a seven-month period. On the other hand, Disney+ had racked up over 50 million subscribers in five months. Of course, the pricing is entirely different (HBO Max is more than twice the price of Disney+, but its catalogue is also double that of Disney+) and Disney benefited from Hotstar’s existing subscriber base in India. But most crucially for HBO Max, it has struggled to convert all existing HBO subscribers (over 37.7 million) over to HBO Max, even though none of them have to pay anything extra. That says a lot about a service’s value (or the lack of awareness).

HBO Max certainly isn’t lacking in big names, mind you. Naturally, it has all the content that HBO has to offer. That includes the likes of Game of Thrones, The Wire, and The Sopranos — some of the best TV shows of all time. Thanks to its WarnerMedia ownership, HBO Max offers some of the most popular TV shows, from Friends to The Big Bang Theory. Additionally, it’s got some of the biggest movies of all time from sister company Warner Bros., in The Dark Knight, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And to further entice new subscribers, HBO Max is releasing Warner Bros.’ 2021 theatrical releases, from Godzilla vs. Kong to The Suicide Squad, on the same day as cinemas — for no additional charge.

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

You’d think that a streaming service with such pedigree and willingness to disrupt the traditional theatrical model (thereby earning the wrath of Christopher Nolan), wouldn’t have so much trouble picking up subscribers. Just for comparison’s sake — if you wanted access to all of the above in India, you’d need all of Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and Amazon Prime Video. And even then, you wouldn’t get access to any of the theatrical movies at home. If HBO Max doesn’t exist in a market (which currently means every country except the US), then Warner Bros. is only releasing them in cinemas. An option that’s less and less safe given India is rapidly seeing a second wave of COVID-19.

Everything You Need to Know About Justice League Snyder Cut

HBO Max’s lack of an international presence is also impacting the rollout of Justice League Snyder Cut. In territories where HBO has a streaming service (and select other markets), Justice League Snyder Cut will be available via a subscription-based model. But in most parts of the world, Justice League Snyder Cut will exist on video-on-demand only. In India, it’ll be available March 18 on Apple TV (formerly iTunes Movies), BookMyShow Stream, Google Play/ YouTube Movies, Hungama Play, and Tata Sky. That means you’ll have to pay for the movie directly — you can choose to rent or buy — as you would while watching a movie at the cinemas.

To me, this sounds like a missed opportunity. On one hand, you’ve HBO Max, a new platform hungry for subscribers. On the other hand, you’ve Justice League Snyder Cut, arguably the hottest property in the fandom right now. This was the perfect moment for HBO Max to go global. (It had 10 months to prepare for it and sort out the licensing issues for Friends, The Dark Knight, and everything else.) Justice League Snyder Cut could’ve been the perfect gateway to millions of new subscribers. Instead, HBO Max is letting Justice League Snyder Cut fans end up a one-time customer, when it could have invited them into a whole new world were it part of a subscription.

There’s also a tiny India-specific matter amidst this: the video-on-demand strategy remains entirely unproven in India. It has a negligible contribution to the revenue of films, which is why India’s theatrical model has essentially been short-circuited: movies go directly from cinemas to streaming. But that’s not the case for the subscription model. Disney+, the only one to reveal India-specific numbers, grew from 8 million last April to 28 million paid subscribers as of February. In fact, 30 percent of the global Disney+ subscriber base is from India, though admittedly, most of them are probably on board for cricketing action or local soap operas and reality TV. But it’s seeing enough success to dub Marvel shows in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. Meanwhile, Snyder Cut won’t have local-language versions.

falcon winter soldier 1

Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

For what it’s worth, HBO Max has said that it will launch in an additional 60 countries by the end of 2021 — 39 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean in late June and another 21 markets in Europe in the second half of the year. In fact, Justice League Snyder Cut will launch on HBO Max in Latin America and the Caribbean, which means most DC fans there will actually have to wait three months to officially catch it. Seen from that perspective, Snyder Cut’s video-on-demand release might actually be a good thing. At least we’re getting it on time — and not being driven to piracy. Warner Bros. isn’t thankfully doing a Disney+ with The Mandalorian, whose first season was limited to five countries upon premiere.

Watch the Final Trailer for Justice League Snyder Cut

Justice League Snyder Cut might have been borne out of a need to grow HBO Max, but by letting it premiere outside of the platform, it’s putting fans first. For something that virtually exists because of their voices, that’s fitting.

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Microsoft Partners With Inworld to Bring AI Game Development Tools to Xbox

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Microsoft Partners With Inworld to Bring AI Game Development Tools to Xbox


Microsoft is teaming up with Inworld AI to create game development tools for Xbox, enabling developers to create characters, generate entire scripts and quests, and more. The multi-year deal brings an AI design copilot and an AI character runtime engine to the forefront, both of them being totally optional to use and to varying degrees. Of course, the use of AI in art has been criticised by many for simply lacking originality, in addition to running the risk of fewer jobs for artists — a growing fear among many considering the alarming number of layoffs seen at game studios this year in an attempt to cut costs.

“At Xbox, we believe that with better tools, creators can make even more extraordinary games,” Haiyan Zhang, GM, Xbox Gaming AI, said in a blog post. “This partnership will bring together: Inworld’s expertise in working with generative AI models for character development, Microsoft’s cutting-edge cloud-based AI solutions including Azure OpenAI Service, Microsoft Research’s technical insights into the future of play, and Team Xbox’s strengths in revolutionizing accessible and responsible creator tools for all developers.”

The aforementioned AI design copilot is a toolset that will help game designers turn prompts into scripts and dialogue trees. In contrast, the character runtime will enable dynamically generated plot beats and quests. We’ve already seen heavy AI integration in games by way of procedural generation — a more recent example being the 1000+ planets in Starfield. Not to mention, enemy AI has been around for way longer.

Inworld made headlines in August when it launched a modded story mode for Grand Theft Auto V, Sentient Streets, in which players had to investigate the rise of a bizarre AI-worshipping cult — a segment loaded with characters that spoke in AI-generated dialogue, on the fly. The mod was later taken down by publisher Take-Two, leaving a permanent strike on the creator Bloc’s YouTube channel. As per The Verge, Inworld’s AI technology can also be used for narration in top-down RPGs to warn players about any events awaiting off-screen and respond to questions like we’ve seen in the past year with AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bing Chat. Microsoft has also been heavily banking on artificial intelligence, having made a $10 billion (about Rs. 83,254 crore) investment in OpenAI. The company has also integrated AI tools into its popular suite of services and also added an AI copilot to Windows.

Despite being a Microsoft-affiliated AI toolset, it would be interesting to see whether titles using them will be allowed to thrive on other platforms. In July, Valve claimed that it would be cracking down on games that included AI-generated assets if the developer didn’t own the copyright to the piece of art. For the uninitiated, when you insert a prompt to create something in AI, the software simply repurposes existing assets found online and mushes them together — basically stealing from other artists and writers without appropriate commercial licenses. Infringing them would lead to the game not being distributed on Steam, forcing the developers to seek proper licenses for the asset by reaching out to the AI companies involved. It’s unclear how Microsoft’s partnership will play out — as long as AI content is being used as a catalyst to innovate and create something new, it should be fine.


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BSNL Offers Free 4G SIM Upgrade: Here’s How to Get It

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BSNL Offers Free 4G SIM Upgrade: Here’s How to Get It


BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) is a state-owned telecommunication company in India. Earlier this year in May, the government said that the firm started rolling out 4G services in the country. By December, the networks were said to be upgraded to 5G. However, at the India Mobile Congress, BSNL chairman P K Purwar said that the company will launch 4G services in December and then roll it across the country by June 2024. The chairman added that the 5G upgrades will take place after June next year.

In a post on X shared by BSNL’s Andhra Pradesh (@bsnl_ap_circle) unit, the company confirmed that BSNL users can upgrade their older 2G or 3G SIMs to a 4G SIM for free. Not only will the upgrade be free, but a promotional image shared with the post suggests that users who opt for the upgrade will also receive 4GB of free data that will be valid for three months. It is speculated that BSNL is aiming to boost its upcoming 4G services with this offer. The announcement was first spotted by Telecom Talk.

To access the free data offer and the free upgrade, BSNL users are requested to get in touch with executives at BSNL’s Customer Service Centre, franchisee or retailer stores, or contact one of their Direct Selling Agents (DSA). The promo image also adds in a finer print that the offer is available with certain terms and conditions, but hasn’t detailed any, so far.

Reliance’s Jio recently launched the 4G-supported Bharat B1 feature phone in India. The handset is priced at Rs. 1,299 in India. Alongside 4G connectivity, the phone comes with JioCinema and JioSaavn applications pre-installed.

The Jio Bharat B1 is equipped with the JioPay application, which is said to allow users to make UPI payments. Aiming to increase accessibility, the phone supports 23 languages overall, including multiple regional languages.


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Realme GT 5 Pro Teased to Feature 3,000 Nits Display; More Details Revealed

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Realme GT 5 Pro Teased to Feature 3,000 Nits Display; More Details Revealed


Realme GT 5 Pro’s launch date is not far away. The Chinese smartphone brand on Tuesday (November 7) confirmed the arrival of the new GT series smartphone in its home country. The Realme GT 5 Pro is teased to come with a display with over 3000 nits of peak brightness. It is also confirmed to pack a larger heat dissipation area for thermal management. The handset will ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. The Realme GT 5 Pro is expected to come as a successor to the Realme GT 5 that debuted in China in August.

Realme, via Weibo, announced the arrival of the Realme GT 5 Pro in China. The display of the handset is confirmed to offer 3000 nits peak brightness. It has also been teased to offer heat dissipation with a surface area of around 10,000mm2. It is confirmed to ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. The post doesn’t specify the exact launch date of the smartphone, however, given the release of the teasers, the launch could be just around the corner.

The Realme GT 5 Pro has been in the news a lot lately. It is expected to feature a 6.78-inch (1,264×2,780 pixels) AMOLED display and is tipped to come in 8GB, 12GB, and 16GB RAM options along with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB inbuilt storage options.

For optics, the Realme GT 5 Pro is said to have a triple rear camera unit comprising two 50-megapixel sensors and an 8-megapixel shooter at the rear. The camera setup might include a Sony LYTIA LYT808 sensor, an OmniVision OV08D10 secondary sensor, and a Sony IMX890 telephoto sensor. For selfies, there could be a 32-megapixel sensor at the front. It is said to carry a 5,400mAh battery with support for 100W wired charging and 50W wireless charging.

The Realme GT 5 Pro is expected to come with upgrades over Realme GT 5. The latter was launched in China in August with a price tag of CNY 2,999 for the base model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.


The Motorola Edge 40 recently made its debut in the country as the successor to the Edge 30 that was launched last year. Should you buy this phone instead of the Nothing Phone 1 or the Realme Pro+? We discuss this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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