Numlock News: July 6, 2020 • Crab Blood, Flash Games, Campers
By Walt Hickey
Horseshoe crabs are fascinating creatures, and happen to be absolutely critical to the pharmaceutical industry and, thus, the global response to coronavirus. Each year pharmaceutical companies obtain 500,000 horseshoe crabs, harvest their blood, and toss them back in the ocean. They do this ridiculous thing because their blood is the only known source of limulus amebocyte lysate, which detects bacterial contamination of sterile drugs. Because of this cumbersome process, the lysate costs $60,000 per gallon. A synthetic came on the scene in 2016, but it’s not considered to be proven as safe as crab lysate by the group that handles U.S. scientific standards for drugs yet. The issue is the crabs aren’t doing so hot — effectively they’ve been suddenly beset by vampire aliens for the past several decades, so you can’t really blame ‘em for not being super good — and the population spawned in Delaware Bay fell from 1.24 million crabs in 1990 to 335,211 in 2019.
Since 2005, the standard price of a console game has sat at $59.99, after the $49.99 price point rose at the start of the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation. With the forthcoming launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, that number looks poised to burst, and the canary in the minecraft is NBA 2K21, which will cost $69.99 on the new consoles. The argument, from the game designer perspective, is quite clear: console game production costs are up by anywhere from 200 percent to 300 percent for the new consoles, and in the same period alternative entertainment options saw significant price hikes, with the cost of a movie ticket up 39 percent, Netflix up 100 percent and Cable TV up 105 percent.
Gone In A Flash
This year, Adobe is ending support for Flash, which is the final nail in the coffin for the standard after years when the number of browsers that simply blocked it by default rose steadily. It’s a legacy technology, which means that the Flash games that once dominated the worlds of online entertainment — a panoply of entertainment ranging from the hastily constructed to the sublime — will be rendered vestigial in the internet to come. Last week, Kongregate — a publisher and web gaming company that operates a portal in which to play Flash games — announced they are now closed to new submissions, capping the archive at 128,655 Flash games, and that it will fold several of the site’s features. Though it’s the end of the road for a business perspective, from an archival and historical perspective the work is only beginning, as Kongregate is working with The Strong National Museum of Play to preserve them.
An analysis by Yelp found 53 percent of the restaurants that had been marked as closed on their site had marked their closures as permanent, a brutal look at the dire state of the industry. The $800 billion U.S. restaurant business employed 15 million workers last year, and their future and livelihood is threatened by an existential threat to the business model of collecting groups of people and charging them for food while they all sit in the same room. There is congressional bipartisan support for a $120 billion rescue fund, but there’s congressional bipartisan support for a lot of stuff that doesn’t happen, so let’s see if anyone bothers to pick up the check on this one.
Since 1950, worker productivity has increased 252.9 percent in the United States, while hourly compensation is only 115.6 percent higher over the very same period. The pair — which one would think should keep pace, as workers secure financial gains from improved work — became disentangled in the mid-1970s after growing in essentially lockstep. Since then, productivity has continued to rise steadily while hourly compensation stayed flat. Since 1998, housing, health care costs, and college costs have all risen by over 50 percent, while health insurance coverage and pension coverage has been down by double digit percentages.
An estimated 19.5 million kids are going to miss out on day camp or overnight camp this year, a brutal summer for both the kids — who get a lot out of the experience — as well as the camps, which aren’t exactly slick industries running on fat margins that can brush off a down year. Camps will lose $16 billion this summer, $4.4 billion of which would have gone to wages for the 900,000 people who would have had a job working at or in support of a camp this summer. In Maine, just 20 of 110 licensed overnight camps are opening up.
Cost Of Delay
Warner Bros.’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan have been doing the COVID tango for the past several months, with each film closely watching the other in terms of when to make a return to the box office. Both of them are large, expensive movies that pre-pandemic were eyed as large global grossers for each studio. Now? Who has any idea. They’re scheduled for August — the 12th for Tenet and 21st for Mulan — but they’ve been delayed multiple times before and nothing is a guarantee. Executives interviewed estimated that each time Mulan or Tenet was pushed a few weeks would cost the studios $200,000 to $400,000 in marketing fees, a cost that would rise to $5 million in the event of a delay with little notice. Most big movies — the kind that get a $100 million to $200 million production budget — get launched with a flurry of ads that begin about six weeks before premiere day and then a serious, frenzied marketing effort in the two weeks before premiere. Timing that out is a challenge normally, but now it’s impossible.
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