Numlock News: January 3, 2023 • Board Games, Comics Books, Romance
By Walt Hickey
Welcome back! Happy New Year!
A Washington man was charged with two counts of first-degree theft and first-degree identity theft after executing a scheme that prosecutors say was inspired by the film Office Space. The man was said to have altered code to pilfer shipping fees and manipulate prices at the e-commerce company Zulily, allegedly stealing $260,000 in payments and $40,000 in merchandise, across 30,000 Zulily transactions. An assessment of his laptop revealed a document called “Office Space project” explicitly describing the nature of the scheme.
Avatar: The Way of Water has legs, making $86.3 million over the New Year’s holiday after a week of reliably putting up great numbers during the post-Christmas holiday period. It’s so far made $444.4 million in North America and about $1.4 billion globally, which is getting pretty close to its breakeven point given the massive technological investment to make the film possible. The movie is already the 14th-highest global release ever, and is poised to beat the previous top grosser of 2022, Top Gun: Maverick, after just three weeks in cinemas.
A German security researcher paid $68 to purchase a Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit (SEEK II) which gathered biometric data on individuals from Afghanistan and Iraq, including the fingerprints, photographs, iris scans, names and nationalities of 2,632 people. The device is one part of the massive biometric collection infrastructure maintained by the American Department of Defense, and it’s unclear how precisely it found its way onto eBay for a Buy It Now price of $149.95 but it’s definitely not great. Researchers who bought four SEEKS and two Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDEs) on eBay found sensitive data on two of them, with one having the fingerprints and irises of several U.S. service members.
Romance In The Air
Demand for romance novels was up 51 percent in 2022, with 32.3 million sold through early December. Book publishing had two bumper years in 2020 and 2021 as books filled in pandemic-era gaps in time use, averaging 9 percent sales growth annually, but publishing is set to see unit sales drop 7 percent in 2022 as the overall demand picture reverts toward a mean. That hasn’t happened in romance, though, as the genre that makes up about 25 percent of the fiction market has grown thanks to interest on social media and superstar authors like Colleen Hoover crushing it in sales, her alone responsible for 8 million romance sales in 2022.
The number of comic book periodical releases was up 7 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, showing a recovery in the business from pandemic-era lows. The number of new releases remains down 15 percent from 2019, but what’s really interesting is that while the number of actual comics released is down, the number of variants of those comics produced — that is, the number of different covers slapped on the floppies — is up a lot. In 2022, there were 4,711 comics that were released by publishers through comic book distributors, and there were another 11,398 variant versions of those comics, meaning that the average comic book had 2.4 variant covers.
As of January 1, all works produced in 1927 are now in the public domain in the United States, including the Virginia Woolf novel To The Lighthouse, the last Sherlock Holmes book, the films Metropolis, The Jazz Singer and Wings, as well as the songs “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Those are the things that are definitely public domain, but there are potentially many, many more that we just don’t know about; copyright used to come in terms of 28 years requiring renewal, and it’s entirely possible that, given that 85 percent of authors didn’t renew copyright, plenty of works from before 1994 could also be entering the public domain this year. Up north, though, a different picture is emerging: On December 30, 2022, Canada started a freeze of its public domain for the next 20 years.
The global market for board game business is booming, with an estimated value between $11 billion and $13.4 billion with a projection that will grow 7 percent to 11 percent over the next five years. In 2022, board game sales were up 28 percent over 2019 levels, with strategic card game sales like Magic: The Gathering and such up 208 percent. One reason for this is that crowdfunding means that getting the scratch to get an idea for a game to market is more feasible than ever, and as such some 3,000 new games are now released every year.
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