Numlock News: December 22, 2023 • Romantasy, Beefeater, Zynga
By Walt Hickey
This is the final Numlock News of 2023!
As always, we’re off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Thank you all for an amazing year; it’s been a delight to write Numlock and I’m so appreciative of the folks who support it by reading it, sharing it, or subscribing to it. Thanks again for all the incredible support around my book launch. We’ll be back January 2, 2024. Happy holidays and happy New Year!
Take-Two Interactive, the video game maker, has a bit of an albatross on its balance sheet in the form of once-hot mobile game maker Zynga, which it bought for $12 billion last year. Zynga made FarmVille and Words With Friends and was responsible for half of Take-Two’s sales, but it’s increasingly clear that the company was bought at the top of the market and that sales have begun to slide. Sales of the five highest-grossing games are down 23 percent since spring of 2022, and the mobile game industry as a whole declined from a $98.4 billion market in 2021 to a $90.4 billion market as of this year.
A new analysis of 40,000 hours of audio recordings of children found that kids surrounded by talkative adults tended to have a larger vocabulary earlier in life. The data was composed of 2,865 days of recordings from 1,001 children aged 2 months to 4 years old, taken from 18 research groups in 12 countries. In the aggregate, for every additional 100 adult vocalizations a kid heard, the kid spoke 27 times more per hour.
An 18-year-old from Oxford has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order after doing a series of cybercrimes that, not to put too fine a point on it, were extremely rad? While on bail for hacking Nvidia and the phone company BT/EE, the hacker’s laptop had been confiscated and he was placed in a Travelodge hotel. While there, he used an Amazon Firestick, a mobile phone, and the hotel television to hack Rockstar Games, the creator of the Grand Theft Auto games, going on to steal 90 clips of the unreleased Grand Theft Auto VI game, then breaching the company’s Slack to demand a ransom. Rockstar claims that the hack cost them $5 million. At the hearing, the mental health assessment of the hacker reported that he “continued to express the intent to return to cybercrime as soon as possible,” because if you’re good at something and you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.
Beefeater Gin has been steadily lowering its alcohol by volume, and it’s driving bartenders who make specialty cocktails nuts. In 2020, Beefeater lowered the proof of its London Dry from 47 percent to 44 percent ABV, a move that sparked anger from cocktail enthusiasts who take time to perfect their gin cocktails. Now, the proof of London Dry dropped again from 44 percent to 40 percent ABV, the legal minimum. It’s got some swearing off Beefeater entirely, but it’s not exactly new: Jack Daniel’s lowered its proof from 90 to 86 in the 1980s, then lowered it to 80 proof — 40 percent ABV — in 2002.
Get Ready With Me
Teen shoppers spent 33 percent more on cosmetics this year than they did last year and 19 percent more on skin care over the same period, an indication that keeping skin healthy and styled is becoming more and more in demand among today’s teens. One thing seen as fueling the increase in demand for cosmetics is the “get ready with me” social media phenomenon, where people go through their skin care and cosmetics routine while chatting on platforms like YouTube and TikTok.
One of the big genre winners in books this past year has been romantasy, or books that blend fantasy genre and romance. It’s at the intersections of two different trends, namely the significant increase in demand for fantasy books (up 17.4 percent in 2022 year over year) and demand for romance books (up 52.4 percent over the same period), and so books that offer both are selling really well. Veterans of the supernatural romance era will sense the appeal, but with vampires on the outs and elves on the in. It’s also a big winner of so-called BookTok, as the #romantasy and #romanticfantasy hashtags have over 600 million views.
The rising popularity of cashmere has had environmental ramifications, and the rising number of cashmere goats raised on the Central Asian steppe has contributed to accelerated degradation of the landscape. Goats can, from a supply chain perspective, be understood as creatures that turn grass into sweaters, a lucrative arbitrage particularly as global demand for cashmere increases. There are an estimated 27.5 million goats grazing Mongolia, most of which are cashmere goats, and in China’s Inner Mongolia region there are another 15 million. Those have had a serious impact on the grasslands: 58 percent of the rangeland in Mongolia degraded due to grazing as of 2016, and 23 percent of that was heavily or fully degraded.
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