Numlock News: August 4, 2023 • Mimics, Tears of the Kingdom, Flakes
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Lyrebirds are renowned for their songs, which often mimic other birds. Among males, which are historically the most studied, the songs used to court females are 80 percent mimicry, incorporating the cries of over 20 other species. The songs of male birds have been the most studied throughout history because those calls tend to be very in-your-face and used to attract attention, but recently study has been paid to the calls of female birds that also, it turns out, sing a lot more than originally understood. A global survey of songbirds found that females sang in 71 percent of species, and among lyrebirds we now know that females are adept mimics, and are thought to use it to ward off predators or rivals. Mimicry itself is a fascinating thing: Birdsong is believed to have come from a common ancestor and spread widely, while vocal mimicry has evolved at least 237 separate times, and disappeared in 52 of them.
Some popular restaurants reeling from app-related over-reservations have rolled out deposits to obtain a reservation. Some restaurants have already been experimenting with no-show charges for people who bail on a reservation, usually $25 to $50, but those have their own issues as sometimes people who bail on the reservation will dispute the charge, not to mention that bots are occasionally the ones making those reservations. It’s not a rare issue: According to OpenTable data, 28 percent of Americans flaked on a reservation in a given year. When implemented, the deposits can get rolled into the eventual check, but given that it’s attempting to change a social norm around a routine restaurant transaction, obviously a lot of people have some very varied thoughts about the tool.
The Little High Concept Animation That Could
Pixar’s Elemental debuted to a disappointing $29.6 million in mid-June, the worst three-day weekend opening for the animation company since the 1990s. It seemed to be a moment of reckoning for Pixar, which had historically produced animated films that were not only critically beloved but also box office successes, and Elemental by all appearances seemed to threaten that ironclad rep. Flash forward to today, and Elemental hung around as the sole thing for kids at the box office long enough to become a hit, with $146.2 million domestic and $257.5 million abroad, for a solid $403.7 million global performance, the best-performing original animated film of the pandemic era and a box office haul enough to put the movie in the black. For whatever reason, it’s a smash hit in South Korea, where it’s made $44.8 million so far, the third-best animated film of all time.
Hasbro is getting out of the movie business, at least directly, selling off its Entertainment One studio to Lionsgate for $500 million, well below the $3.8 billion Hasbro bought it for in 2019. That said, Hasbro is holding on to a bunch of the movie rights to assets that relate to their own products. This means that while shows like The Rookie, Yellowjackets and Naked and Afraid are going over to Lionsgate, Naked and Afraid ain’t exactly lending itself to children’s toys so it’s no great loss to Hasbro. Remaining with the toymaker are the rights to existing hit franchises like Peppa Pig, Transformers, My Little Pony and Dungeons & Dragons as well as the rights to develop possible future film and television source material like Magic: The Gathering, Monopoly and Clue.
De La Rue is the rare kind of company that you’ve never heard of but is fundamentally necessary for the function of society. They make passports, they make the silver foil labels on cigarette packs and alcohol that deems them legit and taxed, and they make 6 billion currency notes a year on contract for central banks that don’t have their own mints. Of the 169 different authorities that issue currency around the world, 80 to 90 of them work with De La Rue, and private companies produce anywhere from 18 billion to 20 billion of the 170 billion banknotes produced annually, with De La Rue in particular printing up to 6 billion of them.
Sales of hobby games hit $2.89 billion in 2022, up 7 percent year over year. This is a bit of a leveling-off, as the height of the pandemic supercharged the category and reinvigorated the roleplaying, collectible card, miniatures and specialty board game space. In 2019, North American hobby game sales were $1.68 billion, up slightly year over year, but by 2021 the pandemic had added a billion in annual sales and the year finished at $2.69 billion. Fueling that 7 percent growth into 2022 was almost entirely buoyed by collectible trading card and miniature formats as well as roleplaying games, with all other categories — board games, card and dice games, and non-collectible miniatures — pretty much flat.
Nintendo has made a fortune off of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, posting a record high quarterly net income of 185 billion yen ($1.2 billion). That’s up 52 percent, fueled by some 15 million to 20 million units of the Zelda game moved in the April to June period, and likely around 100 billion yen of that according to analysts. This is a big, off-cycle jump in revenue; usually, Nintendo revenue grows most during winter, fueled by the holidays. Essentially, the company is cautioning it’s a bit of a one-off, with the release of Tears of the Kingdom the same quarter as The Super Mario Bros. Movie making $1.3 billion worldwide more of a unique and difficult-to-repeat coincidence.
We’ve had two great weeks in the Sunday edition. This past Sunday, I spoke to Aylin Woodward, who wrote “A $25,000 Prize Still Sits in the Maine Woods. Meteorite Hunters Aren’t Giving Up.” for The Wall Street Journal; she can be found at The Wall Street Journal, where she covers everything science.
Then last week, I spoke to Ash Parrish, who wrote “Activision Blizzard lays off esports staff as it faces potential dramatic changes for the Overwatch League” for The Verge. I was a fan of the Overwatch League, and there’s a whole lot to be learned about what’s working and what isn’t in esports based on the challenges faced by OWL. Ash can be found at The Verge and on Twitter.
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