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  1. How Game of Thrones Made Piracy History The final episode of Game of Thrones marked the end of one of the biggest piracy topics in history. The show made dozens of piracy headlines over the years, ranging from prominent leaks, to a mind boggling record that's unlikely to ever be broken. Traditionally, the Game of Thrones season finale is among the most viewed episodes, also on pirate sites. When the entire series comes to an end, interest is only heightened. This is what happened indeed. While many people have been rather critical about the story-line of the final season, millions of people ‘tuned’ in, both through authorized and unofficial channels. The official ratings shot through the roof, with 13.6 million US viewers during the official airing, which is also a new all-time record for an HBO show. On pirate sites, there was plenty of interest as well. Millions of people pirated a copy. At the height, yesterday afternoon, more than 200,000 people were actively sharing the three most popular torrents, with the most popular one being good for 130,000 sharers alone. While this is a massive number, it’s nowhere near the all-time record. That dates back to 2015, when over a quarter million people were simultaneously sharing a single file. This drop is in part because the piracy ecosystem has evolved. Torrent sites used to be the main distribution platforms for pirated TV shows, but unauthorized streaming sites are much more popular today. These sites don’t make any viewing numbers public but are good for millions of ‘pirate’ views as well. With this in mind, it is likely that the record of the largest BitTorrent swarm in history will never be broken. The end of Game of Thrones wraps up one of the biggest continuing stories in file-sharing history. The HBO show was as crowned the “most pirated” TV-series for several years, and is likely to scoop up this title again in 2019, to secure its place in history. Aside from the impressive numbers, Game of Thrones was also at the center of other piracy-related news and discussions, much of which we have discussed in detail here. One key theme that reappeared year after year were the numerous leaks. The most prominent one dates back to 2015 when the first four episodes leaked from a promotional screener. In 2017 a Game of Thrones episode leaked with a “Star India” watermark. This eventually led to the arrests of four people. Keeping up with this trend, several episodes came out early this year as well, and even before the final, the plot was already out. The fact that pirates were often able to see GoT episodes before regular viewers only increased the piracy figures. This was also confirmed by academic research which found that these leaks bred pirates while hurting official viewing numbers. Other major factors that played a role in the high piracy rates are ‘availability’ and pricing. During the early seasons, Game of Thrones wasn’t as widely available as it is today. And even if it was, there were often significant release delays, up to several weeks. That drove many people, especially the bigger fans, to pirate sites. Over the years the availability problem was addressed in many countries, but for many a pricing hurdle remained. Watching Game of Thrones legally, could in many cases cost hundreds of dollars per season, while the pirate alternative was free. Ironically, even those who had eventually signed up for a legal subscription would sometimes continue to pirate, just out of habit. In Australia, for example, 20% of the Foxtel subscribers who had already paid for Game of Thrones still chose to pirate the show instead. In Australia, Game of Thrones piracy has been a hot topic for years. Due to early release delays and relatively high pricing, many chose the piracy route. This frustrated rightsholders and even the U.S. Ambassador, with the latter stating that there is no excuse for ‘stealing.’ Amidst all the controversy, HBO remained fairly calm. Yes, the company issued thousands of takedown notices and even warned some individual file-sharers, but that was about it. Some people did receive settlement demands in 2016, but that was the work of scammers. Some people connected more directly to Game of Thrones also recognized the upside of piracy. Director David Petrarca, for example, previously admitted that piracy generated much-needed “cultural buzz”around the series. Similarly, Jeff Bewkes, in 2013 the CEO of HBO’s parent company Time Warner, noted that piracy resulted in more subscriptions for his company and that receiving the title of “most-pirated” TV-show was actually “better than an Emmy.” That’s a worthy statement to end with. Source
  2. Game of Thrones betting odds: Who will survive episode 6? If you plan to put money down on your favorite character sitting on the Iron Throne, read this before you place a bet. The odds are good Tyrion will drink wine in the final episode. HBO Watching your favorite (or most hated) Game of Thrones characters die tragically on the series could end up being financially advantageous, if you better understand the odds of their survival. If you want to try your luck betting on your favorite character surviving and ruling in the final episode of Game of Thrones, Sports Insider has a few tips. With episode 3 of season 8 labeled by Sports Insider as the biggest single betting event in history for a scripted TV program, the finale on Sunday might be even bigger. The odds are good, but the goods are odd. Sports Insider According to Sports Insider, the odds are good that Bran Stark (odds at -350) will rule the seven kingdoms at the end of the series, but Sansa Stark (+450), Jon Snow (+750) and Tyrion Lannister (+750) follow close behind. If you want to bet on who kills Daenerys Targaryen, there are odds for that too. Jon Snow is favored (at -300) to do the deed, as well Arya Stark (at +450). But the odds that Daenerys actually survives are at +750. Sports Insider Other betting odds include how many Starks will die, whether the Iron Throne will be destroyed and if Tyrion Lannister will drink wine in the final episode. And yes, there are even odds on whether fans will see another Starbucks coffee cup in a background shot: yes at +2,500 and no at -5,000. The Game of Thrones series finale airs on HBO on May 19. Source
  3. Game of Thrones Daenerys fan fury, explained by a clinical psychologist Janina Scarlet, a Game of Thrones geek and psychologist, has thoughts on why the Breaker of Chains' deed has some fans feeling so bummed. What happened to you, Dany? HBO On the path to ruling the seven kingdoms, a true superstar of the realm took a dramatic turn Sunday that has lots of fans feeling uneasy. Janina Scarlet, a clinical psychologist, author and dedicated fantasy fan, says the Game of Thrones letdown is real. But first, if you haven't yet heard what went down on "The Bells," the penultimate episode of HBO's hit series, take a moment to go watch season 8, episode 5. Then meet me back here. Because there are spoilers ahead! Got that? OK. Great, you're back. So, Queen Daenerys and her dragon-baby Drogon easily force Cersei's troops to surrender and then torch the town anyway. WTH, right? The one-time breaker of chains and leading contender for both the Iron Throne and our hearts has very rapidly descended toward becoming the Mad Queen, or at least the "Queen of the Ashes," she once swore she'd never be. Licensed clinical psychologist Janina Scarlet incorporates geeky characters into her therapy. Janina Scarlet Clinical psychologist Janina Scarlet says Game of Thrones has functioned as a kind of refuge for trauma survivors who were able to feel and establish a sense of connection with characters who endured suffering from physical disfigurement to the loss of multiple loved ones. So Khaleesi's heel turn is particularly troubling for fans who might have felt a true sense of connection to her character following her epic story arc, which has seen Dany escape some awful circumstances to literally walk through fire, free the slaves, bring Dragons to the north and help rally the troops to defeat the Night King. She has basically been Abraham Lincoln, Hercules and Winston Churchill combined into one person riding a dragon. Scarlet uses the term "parasocial relationship" to describe the bond a fan might form with a fictional character or celebrity. "Parasocial relationships can help fans to feel less alone in their mental health struggles, can inspire hope, and create a dialogue about trauma and recovery," Scarlet explained. "Seeing a person who came from an abusive childhood, experienced violence, assault and tragedy can inspire many other trauma survivors, especially women, to better understand and process their traumatic experiences as well. Scarlet is also a self-proclaimed geek, authorand creator of Superhero Therapy, which integrates beloved characters from comics, science fiction, fantasy and video games into certain types of therapy. Scarlet, who's based in San Diego, works with clients to identify their own skills and strengths using characters like Veronica Mars, who has a talent for detective work, as role models. The latest from Thrones HBO explains why Daenerys did what she did Episode 5 recap: For whom the bells toll All hail Cersei, the best female TV villain ever Who died in the bloodiest episode yet? Scarlet agreed with countless fans on social media -- and everybody watching in my household -- that the Mother of Dragons' slaughter of thousands at King's Landing doesn't exactly jibe with the image of Daenerys Targaryen we've become familiar with from the good old, chain-breaking days in Meereen and beyond. For many fans, especially women, who might identify with Daenerys in terms of being a survivor, this sudden change can be both confusing and emotionally distressing. Such story arc can appear to take away from agency that many trauma survivors may develop through parasocial relationships." 49 PHOTOS The most evil Game Of Thrones characters ranked She's also concerned the depiction of extreme violence against a multitude of unnamed characters in "The Bells" could trigger fans. "It is my hope that in the future, writers of television and films will consider having cultural and/or mental health consultants on staff, especially when writing storylines dealing with trauma, shock, and horror in order to be conscientious about the potential effects the particular episode or scene may have on the viewers." HBO did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sunday's Game of Thrones finale is likely to come with more violence and shocking turns, but in the future perhaps we'll see more heroes who make mistakes and who still serve as role models when they do. 152 PHOTOS See all the Game of Thrones season 8 photos so far Source
  4. Game of Thrones: Why Cersei Lannister is the best female TV villain, ever Commentary: The Queen of the Seven Kingdoms was a stone cold monster, and we love her for it. Cersei's path to the Iron Throne was bloody and brutal. HBO "I wonder if you're the worst person I've ever met," Olenna Tyrell says to Cersei Lannister in season 6 of Game of Thrones. Olenna's one of the few Westerosi who actually survived long enough to go gray, so you know she's got plenty of ammunition for that statement. Ramsay Bolton hunted humans and Varys kept the sorcerer who castrated him alive in a box. Still, it's not them but Cersei who tops Olenna's list of baddies. As usual, Olenna was right. Unlike her twin and lover Jaime, Cersei hasn't softened since the very first season. Jaime's not the same character he was when he callously shoved Bran Stark from the tower window, snarking as he did about the things he'd do for love. Shaped by his own suffering, the Kingslayer has discovered that all those flowery words about honor really mean something. He's lost a hand and, as cliched as it sounds, perhaps found a heart. Cersei on the other hand? She'd shove Bran from that window all over again, and maybe stab him with a murderously sharp hair ornament first so there's no chance of him surviving the fall. More Game of Thrones Season 8 episode 5 recap: A Song of Fire and Fire Who died at the Battle of King's Landing? Rhaegal, Drogon, Viserion: Game of Thrones dragonmaster tells all Game of Thrones series 8 episode 6 trailer: Who's left to die? We hadn't ever seen a villain like Cersei before. She's beautiful, she's sexy, she's wickedly smart, she's powerful, and no man or woman could keep her off the throne. No question, there have been powerful female villains lacking a conscience before (Maleficent, Hela, Bellatrix Lestrange, even the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz). But no one could compete with Cersei when it comes to her sheer will to do anything to anybody to stay in power. Cersei herself suffered (but really, finding a woman in Westeros who hasn't is like finding a smartphone there). While twin Jaime rode off to fame and glory as a knight, Cersei's father viewed her only as a gift he could give away in marriage to increase his own power. King Robert cheated on her, seeding bastards wherever he rode. She's been imprisoned, had her hair shaved, been forced to walk naked through the streets while people threw rotten food and worse at her. She hasn't exactly taken the glamorous Kate Middleton path to the throne. By all rights, Cersei should not have risen to where she did. Somehow she took her suffering as a challenge and rose above it, and if there's anything to admire about her, that's it. Surrounded by powerful men her entire life, she knew how to exploit their weaknesses and consistently outwit them, all while playing within their own rules. They say the king's sons should sit the throne? Fine, but as their mother, she'll sit behind them, pulling the strings, making everyone believe their decisions are their own when they really come from her. She could never physically be the strongest person in the kingdom, so instead she found the true strongest person -- The Mountain -- and puts him under her control. She wasn't the smartest, so she recruited Qyburn -- knowing full well he experiments horribly on living humans -- and gives him what he wants in exchange for serving her. She didn't have the biggest army, so she hired the services of The Golden Company -- even though they disappointed her by not bringing their elephants. Many of her deeds are grisly, but taught by pain herself, she never hesitated. Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark, even Robb Stark -- they trusted those around them and it led to their deaths. Cersei loved Jaime, but she never truly trusted anyone but herself. There's a horrific scene in the show's seventh season that will stick with me forever. Jaime and Cersei's only daughter, the innocent Myrcella, has been murdered by a poisoned kiss from Ellaria Sand. As revenge, Cersei locks Ellaria and her own daughter Tyene in a dungeon and delivers the same poisoned kiss to Tyene, leaving Ellaria in chains. She'll not only watch her beloved daughter die, but be kept alive to watch Tyene's body rot away. She may have loved her children, but she was never above using them. It's a numbingly horrific torture, and it doesn't come out of nowhere. We already know Cersei lost her mother as a young girl, when Lady Joanna died giving birth to Tyrion -- the first reason Cersei had to hate her little brother. After that death, she'd wonder about her mother's body decomposing, having nightmares of watching it happen. When Myrcella died, she envisioned the same process happening to her once-golden daughter. Forcing that torture on another person might have scrubbed those images out of her own mind, which must be a disturbing and dark place even on its best days. But was Cersei really finding some sort of justice for Myrcella? Probably not. She may have loved her children, but she was never above using them. She used Joffrey and Tommen to sit the throne while she wielded the real power, and she sent poor Myrcella to Dorne as a sort of human trading card. 57 PHOTOS Game of Thrones stars, from season 1 through today Most lives meant little to Cersei, which is a terrible quality in a human and a scarily powerful one in a leader. In the May 5 episode, she has Missandei publicly beheaded as casually as she might pour another glass of Arbor Red. Even the child she's carrying became another pawn to her, something she can use to keep Euron loyal to her and keep his ships on her side. Cersei's end, when it came in the second-to-the-last episode on May 12, wasn't exactly by the book. In George R.R. Martin's series, a young Cersei is told by Maggy the Frog that once her tears have drowned her, she will die strangled by her little brother. Readers and viewers alike debated for years about whether the little brother in question was Tyrion, whom she hated, or Jaime, whom she loved. In the end, she wasn't technically strangled, though it is possible she died gasping for breath as the Red Keep collapsed around her and Jaime, who had found her at the last moment. Maggy's prophecy was right about Cersei's children dying before her, but not quite right about her manner of death. (It's still possible George R.R. Martin will hew more closely to Maggy's prediction IF he ever finishes the books.) And her death surely won't be considered bloody enough by some. Throughout her life, she mercilessly gave many orders that resulted in people dying horribly and in agonizing pain. And yet her own death came with her beloved Jaime holding her, and was probably fairly quick. But her death was rather satisfying for those who wanted to see her taken down at last. For so long she stood in that tower, pinning her hopes on Qyburn's dragon-killing scorpions, on the Iron Fleet, on the Golden Company, on the Lannister army, and finally on the impregnability of the Red Keep. They all, one by one, failed her. It might have been a more satisfying death to see Daenerys fly right up to her tower window, look her in those scheming eyes and utter "Dracarys." It might have made up, just a little, for all the deaths she arranged, from Robert Baratheon (remember him? He kinda started this whole eight-year rodeo...) to Missandei. But in the end, Cersei lived to know that her entire empire was collapsing around her just like the Red Keep was. And as she died, she left behind an entirely new example of just how powerful, terrifying and complex a TV villain can be. Now there's just one episode left to wrap up the world she left behind. What's that Ramsay Bolton said back in season 3? "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention." 152 PHOTOS See all the Game of Thrones season 8 photos so far Source
  5. Game of Thrones: One Battle of Winterfell detail you probably missed It makes the big moment make much more sense. Spoilers ahead. Arya was the MVP of the Battle of Winterfell. Helen Sloan/HBO Warning: Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3 spoilers. The Long Night, aka the Battle of Winterfell, was a polarizing Game of Thrones episode. Some loved it, others thought it a letdown. In particular, there's been some negative talk about how Arya Stark slayed the Night King. Where did she come from? How did she sneak past the White Walkers? To some it seems a bit Arya-ex-machina, with the young Stark's Hail Mary leap of faith coming out of nowhere and not really making sense. However, there's a small detail from the episode that adds an essential piece to the puzzle. Before Arya lunges at the Night King, we see Jon Snow trying to make his way into the godswood, where Bran Stark and the Night King are. The path is blocked by Viserion, the White Walker dragon. Jon tries to run past him, but he's spotted by the dragon. Jon ends up trapped behind the battered remnants of a wall and decides, with nowhere left to run, to confront Viserion. Except he doesn't raise his sword, he just stands up and yells. Here's what you may have missed: Jon yells "Go!" One long one and then another short one. In the very next scene we see one of the White Walker's hair flicker in wind -- wind created by Arya as she makes her way to the Night King. In other words, Jon saw Arya and distracted the dragon so that she could make her way through. Not only would this make sense in terms of clearing a path for Arya, it would also absolve him from the stupidity of trying to kill a dragon by yelling at it. More you may have missed Foreshadowed: In episode 1 of this season, Jon is standing by the weirwood tree, exactly where the Night King looks down on Bran. He turns around to find Arya has crept up on him without him noticing. The show's creators were giving us a last-minute reminder about her stealth skills. Similarly, during a light duel with Brienne (that's SerBrienne to you) in season 7, Arya bested Brienne by flicking her dagger from one hand to the other. Leaving as he enters: Back in season six, we see the Children of the Forest create the Night King by pinning him to a weirwood tree and plunging a dragonglass dagger into his heart. The weirwood tree could be the key to the Night King's vulnerability. He sure did seem indestructible when he was being assaulted by dragonfire. See a Ghost: Ghost, Jon's direwolf, reappeared in episode 2 of season 8 after a noted absence from the spotlight. He was seen at the Battle of Winterfell, charging into the wights alongside the Dothraki and Ser Jorah Mormont. Jorah came back, but most of the Dothraki didn't. Ghost wasn't seen for the rest of the episode either. But don't fret, direwolf lovers, he was spotted in the trailer for next week's episode. Thread the needle: Arya got her first sword, needle, from Jon back in season 1. "First lesson," he told her, "stick 'em with the pointy end." That's the same advice Arya gave Sansa when she sent Sansa down to the crypts with her dagger as the army of the dead approached. Of course, Syrio Forel, Arya's first official stabmeister, was referenced later by Lady Milensadre. "What do we say to the God of death?" A dagger's journey: The dagger Arya plunged into the Night King saved Bran, and everyone else. Seven seasons ago, though, it was meant to kill Bran, as an assassin was armed with it after Bran saw Jaime and Cersei, uh, exploring their sibling bond. The dagger belonged to Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, who also used it to betray Ned Stark. Littlefinger gave it to Bran last season, and Bran gave it to Arya. Hopefully we'll get a decent explanation next week on exactly how Arya traveled from the room with The Hound and Lady Milesandre to the godswood. Source
  6. Game of Thrones: Who was the Battle of Winterfell MVP? All the stats from "The Long Night", the biggest battle in TV history. Who lived, who died, how many wights did they slay and who was the MVP? Caution: Spoilers ahead! The Battle of Winterfell was extremely dark, bloody, cold and full of dead guys with really poor dental hygiene. Our favourite Game of Thrones characters died, some rose from the dead to terrorize the living once again and others barely scraped through with a last minute assist from their friends. We've recapped all the big moments of the episode, and now we have tracked through, frame-by-grimy-dark-frame, to count up all the kills and deaths we could. How many wights were dispatched by major characters? How much time did they spend in battle? Who killed who and who was the most efficient warrior? There were some clear victors -- likely to become the subject of sing-alongs in Westeros for years to come -- and there were some unexpected losers. What follows is our Battle of Winterfell Box Score, a breakdown of TV and film's longest (and darkest) battle in history as if it was a major sporting event with a suite of analysts and data guys. [Note: I am just one man slowly scrolling through 77 minutes of prestige television so there's bound to be some sort of error here. Please correct me!] First, some rules and a big ol' warning. Rules of engagement No dragons. Indirect kills don't count. The hardest, fastest rule we stuck to when putting this together was the idea the dragons would be excluded. Drogon and Rhaegal were, undoubtedly, the MVPs when they battle outside Winterfell's gates, mowing down wights (and wight giants) with ease. We did not attribute any of their kills to Dany or Jon, their riders, because the dragons are the equivalent of a video game hack. It's cheating. That also means there are no indirect kills taken into consideration. If they were, that would put slow-walker Melisandre right up there with the best warriors on the battlefield because her fire trench move was a game-changer, preventing the castle from being overrun even sooner. Then on the other side of the moral fence is the Night King and his indirect kills via sending wights to the slaughter or Vicerion blue-flaming things to smithereens. A no-go zone. The Darkest Night Rises Game of Thrones "The Long Night" recap: The Ice Man cometh Watch the trailer for the next episode: Cersei Lannister strikes back The Battle of Winterfell was dark and full of terrors -- but mostly really, really dark We were pretty liberal with a confirmed wight kill. As long as someone stabbed a wight on screen, we chalked it up as a zombie death. There were limited times when you could see a wight recoil and seemingly hold their ground, but we like to think of the wounded as the damned and so, a kill was awarded anyway. We also aren't going to come at this from the bad guy's side, except for looking at two major villains: The Night King and the giant wight that breaks into Winterfell. Finally, we counted how many seconds each character was involved in battle for -- but only while they were on-screen. On top of this, characters like Theon and Bran, in the godswood of Winterfell, were not engaged in battle the entire time. Their inclusion in the battle was only once the godswood was invaded. That allowed us to pull out how efficient each warrior was by looking at their kills per minute (KPM) based on how involved they were in the conflict. When deciding who we wanted to take into the big game, the kills were the most important deciding factor. Our major inspiration here is the NBA, so we broke it down into the starting five, our bench players, who we'd trade out and awarded one brave soul the Battle of Winterfell MVP. The starting lineup Picking your starting five for the Battle of Winterfell is a difficult task, if only because there are so many warriors that have proved themselves in battle before. You have warrior badasses like Lyanna Mormont up against Samwell Tarly, a man who is probably a better reader than fighter. You have the recently-knighted Ser Brienne against a man who can light his sword on fire by whispering to it, Beric Dondarrion. And you have Jaime Lannister, a man who has seen a lot of time on the battlefield, up against someone like Arya Stark who, though a trained assassin, has zero minutes in big games. There's no bigger game than the one where you fight death itself. How would that lack of experience show? Total amount of kills (on-screen) at the Battle of Winterfell. Jackson Ryan/CNET Having tallied the stats, Arya is a clear winner of the battle and possibly the most brutal warrior in all the realm. She leads the pack with 22 kills, the majority of those coming in a scene atop the battlements, where she uses the dual-blades that Gendry forged to dispatch wight after wight. Of course, Arya's size and speed are an advantage here, but she's also trained with some of the realm's best fighters: The Faceless Men, the Waif, Brienne and the Hound. Arya lands the equivalent of an NBA Finals game seven buzzer beater from half court when she dispatches the Night King while being choked to death. This is a round five, championship belt on the line KO. She comes through in the biggest moment of all -- and with the most kills in the episode -- she is an absolute lock in the starting five. Joining Arya is Theon frickin' Greyjoy, a man who practically single-handedly kept the wights from picking Bran up from his wheelchair and carrying him out to the Big Blue Bad. At a crucial juncture in the battle, when almost everything was lost, Theon showed he had real balls, taking out 20 wights in the Godswood. He also, stupidly, charged at the Night King with his pike and missed embarrassingly but for his courage, he lands in the starters. Rounding out our five is Jorah (19 kills), Tormund (17) and Ser Brienne of Tarth (16). Worth mentioning here that all three of these characters were on-screen for a much shorter amount of time in battle than both Theon and Arya. All three had a far better Kills Per Minute (KPM), with Tormund leading the way. The man who suckled at the teat of a giant was in battle, on-screen, for less than 60 seconds, but he managed 17 kills in that time. On the bench When you look for someone to come off the bench you want a spark -- someone that will inspire the team to push forward while the major stars give it a rest. You're also looking for someone that isn't too "me, me, me" and wants to take all the glory for themselves. A team player, if you will. No one provided more spark than Lyanna Mormont, slayer of giants. Although the little Bear Queen's entire body crumpled in the wight giant's palm like Anderson Silva's leg at UFC 168, she was able to get away a valiant knife to the eye and disintegrate the mammoth walker as her final act of defiance. Only truly in battle for 58 seconds, her one kill is worth 20 kills -- can you imagine the damage that giant wight would have done just roaming through the inner keep? She was bravery personified from the moment we met her until her brutal, hobbling end and that makes her first off the bench. The total time each character in Game of Thrones was on-screen during the Battle of Winterfell from the moment the Dothraki horde enter the dark to the final blade in the Night King's belly. Jackson Ryan/CNET Two of the more inexperienced fighters (and lovers!), Podrick (9 kills, KPM 12) and Gendry (9 kills, KPM 13.8) didn't get a lot of screen time, but every time the battle came to them, they delivered with great efficiency. You can really see the duo teaming up to exchange stories about the war, their ladies and the fact that it's really easy to confuse the two of them in the darkest TV battle ever filmed. You've got to hand it to Jaime Lannister, defending Ser Brienne with a late-game assist, a great KPM of 7.02 and 11 kills. Fighting side-by-side with the love of his life, Jaime powered through the Battle of Winterfell, kept Brienne from a widely-suspected death and, when the wights really pushed deep into Winterfell, proved he's still got it -- all with one hand. A lock for our fourth bench spot. The last bench spot is a tough one, but we're going with The Hound. Though his aversion to fire and his hatred of practically everything that exists can really swing the tide of a battle, his respect for Arya means he's coming off the bench with some real heat. Helping him along is his 12 kills, but the Hound was one of our least efficient fighters (KPM 2.2), spending a good chunk of the battle skulking through the castle or fighting a different war altogether -- the one against his own demons. Trade 'em Some warriors just don't fit into a Championship winning team and, for them, it's worth investigating some trades -- who would have helped that wasn't there at the Battle of Winterfell? Fire sword or no, Beric's output is limited. Is he playing scared because there's no Thoros of Myr to revive him? Probably not. Beric gets a lot of time to shine on-screen (3 minutes, 40 seconds) but much of that is spent in the bowels of the Castle, trying to defend and protect Arya. His KPM is low as a result (1.17) and look, this might be harsh on our guy Beric, but we'd love to have seen what Yohn Royce could have done in battle. Dividing the kills/time on-screen, we get Kills Per Minute (KPM). How efficiently was each character's time used? Tormund was the clear victor, practically only appearing when he was slaying wights. Jackson Ryan/CNET Samwell Tarly, even with four valiant kills, would be the team water boy. Did you see him just sitting down to cry at the end? What are you doing Sam?! There's still time left on the clock and you're cradling yourself. Get in the game. We'd rather see Hot Pie throw pastries than this. Ghost, we're not sure where you went or what you achieved on the frontlines, but we would trade you for Nymeria and her pack in a heartbeat. Bran just spent the whole game on his galaxy-brain-iPhone watching reruns of Lost's disappointing finale, so the sooner we trade him out, the better. There's another war yet to come and now that Bran is practically the most powerful magician in the world, what is he good for? Absolutely nothing. Trade him for a single chicken and feed it to the Hound. A short note on wight numbers These are the types of frames we were working with here. HBO The wights do a lot of damage in this episode, there's a handful of instances where they score direct kills on the living (but no major characters) and their numbers are truly baffling. During the first encounter when they charge the Unsullied in a tidal wave, there appears to be around 12 wights across four Unsullied. Extrapolating, let's just say there are three wights for each Unsullied, which seems like a pretty conservative estimate. From several early scenes, we can see the entire Unsullied squadron. There are 10 by 10 squadrons and 2 squadrons behind each trebuchet, so 200 men per trebuchet. There are 11 trebuchets across the frontline which can be seen when Dany and Jon overlook the battle, so 2,200 men at the battle's edge. We also see that the Unsullied squadrons are 4 deep. So 2,200 × 5 = 11,000. A conservative estimate of wights invading would then put the total (on the front lines and not including those that attack the flanks) at 11,000 × 3 = 33,000, provided the wight density remains the same as far back as the Unsullied. Seeing as they get overrun, we're OK making that assumption, and are willing to commit to the idea that a hundred thousand wights invaded Winterfell on the Long Night. Good odds of victory, then. Mother of Defeat We need to talk about Daenerys Targaryen. The Mother of Dragons put in an all-time worst performance at the Battle of Winterfell and almost got herself killed in the process. If not for the valiant efforts of Jorah Mormont, Dany would be gone and Cersei would be knocking back another wine with a Cheshire Cat smile. Dany's reeling in this episode because she's only just found out that Jon is actually her nephew. Sad trombone. She's playing distracted. She's got other things to deal with, like the accidental incest. Unlike Michael Jordan's infamous "flu game", Dany can't kick what's eating her up inside. She's the Anti-Michael. Grim times abound for Dany. Helen Sloan/HBO First, she screws up lighting the trench because she gets blinded by an ice cloud and doesn't think to… just descend a little? Her next error is letting Drogon sunbathe on the battlefield so long the wights can crawl all over him like he's a pie at a picnic, taking nasty bites out of his dragon skin. Dany almost kills Drogon because she is staring at Jon running off into the castle? Dany. Lift. And her most idiotic move, akin to J.R. Smith in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, is trying to burn the Night King alive. Anyone think to tell her that, hey, he doesn't burn? If it was that easy Dany, we would have flown North and had a crack without risking the entire population of Winterfell. Her dual assist as Jorah was getting overwhelmed doesn't do anything to sway our opinion, though it is valiant. She makes a single kill in melee combat but spends a lot of time on Drogon, putting her personal KPM at 0.15, the lowest of all. She wanted to fight, she just made a lot of bad decisions. She's a huge asset to the team, but this was her worst on ground performance in the most important battle in the history of man. The Battle of Winterfell MVP Arya Stark: One-time MVP. Helen Sloan/HBO Look, there's an obvious case to be made for Arya Stark who, despite having the fourth worst efficiency of the long night, was still the most effective killer and one of the key keys to victory. So we are going to make it. Arya Stark's lunge at the Night King is a poster-dunk for the high fantasy crowd. It's a fifth round KO by Showtime Kick. It's a triple-overtime heave from half court in the Championship Game. Everything that Game of Thrones had been building toward, everything the Battle of Winterfell had been building toward was made possible by this one moment. Who else but Arya could be the MVP? There, perhaps, is also a case to be made for Melisandre -- who showed up at the last possible moment to provide some form of hope, courtesy of the mysterious Lord of Light. Recalling her prophecy to Arya sparks the lady of Winterfell into action when all seemed lost. That was Melisandre's doing, but the nous, the smarts, the cleverness, the foresight to use the sneaky dropped dagger trick puts Arya on top. Tormund, you say? Look, we can't argue with that logic. The man with the best KPM and the giant's milk forever in his belly is also a worthy MVP candidate and arguably contender for MVP of the season. He will have to settle for Most Improved. Melisandre can have our Coach of the Year award. After the war A few post-war liner notes: The dragons killed thousands of wights -- including a giant wight that got torched by Drogon about halfway through the battle. At several points, we went frame-by-frame counting the wights that were in direct line of fire. It was a task for someone with more mental fortitude (or maybe machine learning skills) than us. Let's just say: It was a bad day for the undead. The wights claimed Edd, Beric, Jorah and 99 percent of the Dothraki horde. Four main character kills is pretty good. Edd was in the episode for 16 seconds before being struck down by a wight. Gendry lasted longer, we hope. The Dothraki horde had a better showing, and were present for almost two minutes. They have zero confirmed kills, but surely they had some small victories outside Winterfell? Alys Karstark was in the meeting in the last episode and seen early in this one next to Theon. She wasn't seen again. Is she dead? The crypts were not safe as many predicted but I feel short-changed. I wanted to see Headless Eddard. Davos did an incredible job of avoiding any type of conflict whatsoever but also giving wonderful, stern looks to many people. If looks could kill, he'd have been MVP. We did not see Yohn Royce anywhere. Where was he supposed to be? I have been informed Grey Worm is two words. I was wrong. Source
  7. How do you say "where's the air support" in Dothraki? Warning: This story contains plot points and spoilers for the latest episode of Game of Thrones, S8E3's Battle of Winterfell. Halfway through the last season of Game of Thrones, we put together an after-action analysis of the major military engagements driving the plot of the series in the season's two central episodes—"The Queen's Justice," in which the forces allied against Queen Cersei got seriously pasted, and "The Spoils of War," in which Daenerys Targaryen, her dragons, and her Dothraki rapid response force swept down on the Lannister army's wagon train and turned it into a macabre cookout. Now we're halfway through the final season of the series, and we're at a similar pivot point. The second episode of the season—"A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms"—laid out the somewhat awful strategic position of the combined allied forces under the command of Daenerys Targaryen and her Warden of the North, lover and likely nephew Jon Snow. And in the most recent episode—"The Long Night"—that situation reached its climax and conclusion in what could set the record for the least number of photons registered in a film or video production of its length ever. As we were writing this, we were beaten to the punch by one of our favorite military Twitterati and bloggers, Angry Staff Officer, a master of fictional tactical interpretation, in his excellent but perhaps slightly misguided analysis for our sister publication, Wired. It's definitely worth reading, and you should do so right after you read this—unless you have not seen the episode and are averse to spoilers. In that case, come back and read both once you're ready. Situational awareness Enlarge / At first (like the first two minutes), it seems we have a steady human set of hands at the wheel... HBO Dany's Dothraki and Unsullied forces, Jon's army of the North, the remaining Night's Watch, the remnants of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and a sundry assortment of other good guys face a dire strategic situation to start. The Night King and his mega-army of risen dead people have them outnumbered; he can challenge their air superiority with his own undead dragon and proven anti-aircraft spear; and instead of getting reinforcements from the double-dealing Queen Cersei, they get a one-handed man famous for pushing a kid out a window and siring kids with his sister. At their command post in Winterfell, the collected leaders looked at the bleak situation and laid out their battle strategy: hold out as best as possible while luring the Night King into a single combat situation using warg raven/drone operator and cryptic intelligence provider Bran Stark (that kid who got pushed out the window) as the bait. Then they mostly get drunk and wait for the onslaught, until forward scouts signal that the enemy is near. But other than toots on a horn, Dany's leadership has absolutely no battlefield situational awareness. It's like they don't have any sort of flying thing that could do reconnaissance or something. While scouts have given a rough estimate of force composition and the order of battle is pretty well-known, there's pretty much no operational picture—and pretty much no television picture, either, as the director of photography chooses to present the first half of the episode mostly in various shades of black. As the battle approaches, flame priestess and general portent of doom Melisandre wanders up and provides some much needed lighting—giving the Dothraki cavalry some flaming swords to swing. Meanwhile, non-combatants are withdrawn to the super-safe crypt, surrounded by dead people who could be raised by the Night King. Nobody seems to think twice about this, not even Dany's supposedly savvy advisors Tyrion and spymaster Varys—but we've seen them fall flat on their faces before in the foresight department, so that's not a shocker. Dany and Jon watch from a mountaintop vantage point, awaiting their cue to deliver air support. They can't see much of anything. But somebody eventually does, as the Dothraki charge the unseen White Walker line. Leeroy Jenkins time Enlarge / This will totally work. There has been a lot of criticism of the Dothraki cavalry charge. But we are here to say that the criticism should be focused on the lack of close air support. In "The Spoils of War," the Dothraki served as a "fixing force" to line the Lannisters up for mass destruction from the air. Here, the Dothraki are literally lighting the way to the enemy, and all they have is some artillery support in the form of catapulted flaming tarballs. Had this illumination been used for, say, some timely dragon strafing by Dany while Jon flew combat air patrol above, the Dothraki sacrifice may have been considerably smaller. Instead, we just get to see their flaming swords extinguished by the advancing line of we don’t know what. The primary failure of the Dothrakis' use as a shock force was that they ran into an enemy (literally) that could not be shocked. Hopefully there are enough of them left to play a role in the next engagement. The Dothraki charge was just another example of how utterly unimaginative Dany's supporting staff have been in the face of new challenges. As the returning Dothraki retreat back to Winterfell, we get a good look at another major failure of imagination—the defensive works around the castle, which are, to be honest, embarrassing even from a medieval tactical perspective. While the defenses may have been rushed a bit, it's hard to believe nobody remembered that the enemy's main body was a relentless, berserker undead infantry. Winterfell's outer defensive works were: A line of chevaux-de-frise—spiked anti-cavalry fortifications akin to tank traps A trench filled with stuff that burns That's it. There were no other engineering efforts made. There was no effort to use the moving mass of the Walkers against them, using stake walls or other defensive structures. There could have been concentric trenches. Nope. And the Unsullied and Dothraki and everyone else on the field before Winterfell had to retreat through the defenses, causing higher losses. Sure, all of this would have taken time and resources. But even a little more effort could have bought more time. Unfortunately, this bit of tactical and strategic fail is often reflected in reality, where commanders go into battles thinking the enemy will just fight them by the rules they already know. Combined arms… and legs Enlarge / When in doubt, have a witch light a bunch of trenches on fire. HBO Command, control, and communication is essential on the battlefield. But the Night King essentially jammed Winterfell's C3 efforts by bringing on a literal fog of war—masking the battlefield with Winter itself. Davos Seaworth waves those flaming sticks to signal to Dany to dragon-flame the trenches alight, but she can't see anything through the low deck. Fortunately (?), Melisandre goes out and does her thing one more time, setting the trench alight. And then everybody just stands there and watches each other. All the catapults are outside the walls and the trenches. All the archers sit on their hands as the Walkers pause at the wall of flame. Another opportunity to thin the (easily replenished) ranks of the dead. Meanwhile, Dany and Jon get tangled up in an air-to-air engagement with the Night King, astride his zombie, blue-fire spitting dragon. The Night King has failed to master the use of air power: he could have ignored Jon and Dany and just leveled Winterfell's walls with airstrikes like he did to that Other Wall, but nah. He obviously has no understanding of air-to-air tactics and attempts an attack from below—only to end up entangled with one of his targets. Both the Night King and Jon end up un-dragoned, their reptilian aircraft left to their own devices. But this is not an apparent problem for the Night King, who has psychic C3 over his minions—and is able to raise all the dead around him as reinforcements. Dany tries to toast the Night King with dragon fire, but it's super-ineffective. The Night King directs his dead troops to breach the burning barrier in a style reminiscent of World War I trench warfare (or, as Angry Staff Officer put it, "Soviet style")—by throwing their bodies down as a bridge over the obstacle. Suddenly, the lines are not so static. The walls are breached World War Z style by the masses of White Walkers. As the battle rages inside the walls, the Night King strolls into Winterfell with his squad of frozen bros. The plan… works? Then, there is a lot of dying. Jon finds himself tied down by zombie dragon fire. Dany is defended to the death by Jorah Mormont after her dragon gets weighed down by White Walkers. Theon Greyjoy and a band of archers defend Bran at the bait-point to the end, before Theon is dispatched with his own spear by the Night King. It looks like this is the end… until Game of Thrones' ultimate special warfare operator, Arya Stark, arrives and dispatches the Night King with some really slick Valyrian steel dagger work. The King crumbles, and his minions all collapse. It's like a proton torpedo down the exhaust port. The end. It's a win, at huge costs—one that considerably weakens Dany's fighting force for the coming battle with Cersei's mercenary reinforcements and fleet. But the win shows that the basic underlying strategy mapped out by the leadership was correct—even if the execution left much to be desired. In the end, we believe that the Battle of Winterfell played out much as most military conflict does. Success in combat often hinges upon the determination, imagination and ability to adapt and overcome in the face of situations that soldiers haven't trained for. The enemy will not always conform to your tactical paradigm. And fortune favors the bold. If you want the show's writers to justify the action of team human, HBO's latest behind the episode video does just that. Source: A post-action analysis of GoT’s Battle of Winterfell—through a glass, darkly (Ars Technica)
  8. Game of Thrones meets Westworld in fan-made opening sequence "Westeros World" looks and sounds pretty stylish. The Stark family crest appears in the Westeros World title sequence. GillesKontrol/Screenshot by CNET If you're still reeling from Game of Thrones' Battle of Winterfell or just trying to avoid spoilers, perhaps a fresh version of the introduction sequence will sooth your traumatized mind. "Westeros World" recreates Thrones' opening in the style of HBO's other big-budget hit, Westworld, in homage to title designers Patrick Clair and Raoul Marks. Belgian designer Gilles Augustijnen spent about eight months putting it together, having been inspired by composer Brandon Chapman's "beautiful mashup" of the two shows' themes, he wrote in the video's description. He used a bunch of programs -- After Effects, C4D, Photoshop, Illustrator, Substance Painter, ZBrush, Fusion360 and DAZ3D -- to create the slick sequence, which depicts Daenarys with a dragon egg (remember those days?), the Iron Throne and the Night King in place of imagery from Westworld's season 2 intro. Augustijnen didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment. Source
  9. New Game of Thrones Episode Leaks Online Early The latest episode of Game of Thrones has leaked online several hours before its official premiere. The leak comes from the German version of Amazon Prime, where it was put online early. Since then it's been widely shared on various pirate sites. Several hours before its official premiere, the second episode of the latest Game of Thrones season is already widely available on torrent and streaming sites. According to reports from several viewers, the German version of Amazon Prime accidentally made the episode available on the platform a few hours ago. Apparently, the second episode of the season simply started playing after the first one finished. After this mistake, it didn’t take long before someone ripped the show, and soon after many links to pirated copies started to appear on the usual torrent and streaming sites. This isn’t the first time that a Game of Thrones episode has been released early. The popular HBO series has a long history of leaks. The most prominent one dates back to 2015 when the first four episodesleaked from a promotional screener. In 2017 a Game of Thrones episode leakedwith a “Star India” watermark. This eventually led to the arrests of four people. Today’s leak appears to be a mistake by Amazon, but the result is ultimately the same. Pirates will get an early viewing of the latest episode, before those who pay, and spoilers are being widely shared online. For several years in a row Game of Thrones has been the most pirated TV-show, and this year the interest is overwhelming once again. Data published by piracy tracking company MUSO earlier this week showed that the first episode of this season was pirated 54 million times in just one day. Source
  10. Fake News is Coming? Game of Thrones Pirates Are Going to Jail When a new Game of Thrones season is about to land, major news publications everywhere tend to come up with something exciting. But what if there's no obvious angle? Easy! Come up with a sensational headline claiming that Game of Thrones downloaders are going to jail but don't offer a single shred of evidence to back it up. Then sit back, and wait for the clicks. In case anyone hadn’t noticed, a new series of Game of Thrones started last week. That meant hundreds of articles about the show, especially since this is probably its last hurrah. We too did our bit, writing earlier this week how the first episode in the series had resulted in a flood of downloads via torrent sites. We’ve been writing about the show in this context for years, so the latest installment probably didn’t come as a surprise. What will have come as a surprise, to the people who had the misfortune to read it, was an article published on the Daily Mail’s site. As is customary, the piece was placed to the left of a sidebar of clickable articles focusing on the physical attributes of mainly female celebrities in various states of undress. The piece about Game of Thrones admittedly featured less flesh but sought to be just as outrageous. With a headline like the one above, this was clearly going to be a knockout story. With huge numbers of Aussies downloading Game of Thrones every week, the prospect of filling the nation’s jails with pirates must have been thought through well in advance by the nation’s authorities. So who in government had issued the stark warning? Well, if you’re hoping to find the answer in the article, you can forget it. The piece uses the words ‘jailed’ or ‘jail’ several times, yet not once does it put any more meat on the bones of the headline claim that Game of Thrones downloaders could be seeing the inside of a cell. It does cite a 7news.com.au report which claims that people “could pay a big price down the line” for pirating the show. However, we’ve been through that article with a fine tooth comb looking for any references to criminal prosecutions of downloaders by Australian authorities, and came up with absolutely nothing. That leaves us with a few possibilities. Perhaps the Daily Mail has a source inside the government that supplied the information that warranted a SHOCKING headline but asked the paper to back it up with zero details just to keep everyone on their toes. To rule that out, TorrentFreak contacted the government, to see if any statement had been made to back up the claims detailed above, specifically concerning the claim that downloaders of Game of Thrones could be thrown in jail. The Department of Communications and the Arts responded quickly. “No announcement has been made by government regarding criminal prosecution for breach of copyright law,” the team said. “Copyright owners have a number of exclusive rights, including the right to control the reproduction of their material and the right to communicate that material to the public, which includes uploading, posting or downloading content online. “A person might infringe the exclusive rights of the copyright owner of ‘Game of Thrones’ if they upload, stream, download or share unauthorized copies of the program.” Escalating the downloading of a Game of Thrones episode to a criminal offense would make huge headlines anywhere. However, apart from this single piece in the Daily Mail, no other publication has chosen to republish this unsourced claim as fact. That in itself is telling. That leaves us with another option, that there’s a secret industry source, that said (off the record, mind you) that anyone downloading Game of Thrones could be subject to incarceration. And this is where things get a bit weird. “Creative Content Australia executive director Lori Flekser told 7 News the crackdown wasn’t just about stopping revenue loss,” the Daily Mail’s original piece read. It didn’t attribute the ‘jail’ claims to Flekser, but the implication was there. We doubted that the anti-piracy group would’ve made such a comment, so we checked with Flekser herself. “You are absolutely correct – this is not something I said or endorse,” Flekser told us. “Prosecution has occurred where people have profited from the sale of pirated content, such as the reference in that article to the 2017 case of Sydney man Haidar Majid Salam Al Baghdadi who was convicted for his role in the selling of unauthorized access to Foxtel services.” After Flekser emailed her comments to TF, we checked the Daily Mail article against an indexed copy from the date it was originally published. Interestingly, the publication had removed all references to Flekser but maintained the line that Game of Thrones pirates could be put in jail. Well, let’s go along with the ‘jail’ charade and consider the feasibility of that. In Victoria, which covers Melbourne, for example, it costs in excess of AUS$328.00 per day to lock someone up. Last year, Australia had around 42,000 prisoners in total and according to figures published earlier this week, around a million Aussies downloaded the first episode of the new Game of Thrones series – in a day. If the authorities decided to criminalize downloaders and put even 5% of these people in jail, Australia’s judicial system – if not the whole country – would be in crisis. Furthermore, if only a tiny proportion of offenders went to jail (let’s say a modest five people), there would be a public outcry, especially when one considers that shoplifting goods up to the value of AUS$600 is often dealt with via an on-the-spot fine resulting in no criminal record. That presents an uncomfortable third option, that this is a classic and pretty blatant example of fake news. Or, at the very least, an outrageous headline drawing traffic to an article that fails to come up with the goods or back itself up in any way. Make no mistake, pirating TV shows is illegal in Australia and those also sharing them with others (using BitTorrent, for example) could find themselves having to explain their actions in court in a civil case. Thus far, however, there has been very little sign of that practice making a comeback in the country. There are also criminal implications for those who commit infringement on a commercial scale, as Flekser told us. But downloading an episode of Game of Thrones doesn’t seem to fit that description for an individual, even if a million Aussies did it collectively this week. Of course, that’s much less interesting than “everyone’s going to prison”, so let’s find a ridiculous angle and mislead the public instead. Fake news is coming? It’s already arrived. Source
  11. All the pieces are moving into place in preparation for the coming big showdown. Enlarge / Jon Snow (Kit Harington) brings Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) home to meet the family at Winterfell. HBO Winter is here! The first episode of the hotly anticipated final season of HBO's Game of Thrones aired Sunday night, and it proved a solid, if not scintillating showing. There were reunions galore, a bit of sniping and tension, a nifty new opening credits sequence, and the dragons (the true stars at this point) got plenty of screen time. (Spoilers for first seven seasons; mild spoilers for last night's episode.) Based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO's Game of Thrones long ago outpaced the novels in terms of plot, although the author had some early input in shaping the TV series' broad narrative arc. We've seen plenty of sex, blood, and horrifying death over the course of seven seasons, and now it's time for the endgame. This being George R.R. Martin, there's no guarantee of a happy ending. It's a complicated show with a massive cast, even after killing off so many major characters to clear the board a bit. When we last left off, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) had improbably outlasted all rivals (including her own children) and ascended to the Iron Throne, with the help of her own Doctor Frankenstein, Qyburn (Anton Lesser). Her younger brother, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), had joined forces with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who also won the loyalty of Stark family bastard and new King in the North Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Dany came to Westeros to battle Cersei for the Iron Throne but is convinced to call a truce by Jon, who proves that the White Walkers (led by the Night King) and their undead zombies, the wights, (a) exist, and (b) are preparing to conquer Westeros and wipe out the living once and for all. The Stark family has regained its ancestral home of Winterfell, with Sansa (Sophie Turner) in charge in Jon's absence, aided by her sister-turned-faceless-assassin Arya (Maisie Williams). Their only surviving brother, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), is now a powerful seer called the Three-Eyed Raven, although his exact role in the endgame is still unclear. (He spends most of his time looking dreamily solemn and occasionally makes portentous observations.) We know from earlier teasers that Dany and Jon come to Winterfell, and Sansa reluctantly cedes Winterfell to her, since Jon had "bent the knee" and declared his loyalty to the Mother of Dragons. Dany also lost one of her dragons to the Night King, then later got it on with Jon Snow, unaware that he is, in fact, a legitimate Targaryen by birth. (The incest here is less relevant than what this means for her claim to the throne—though the incest also makes their relationship somewhat more traditional for the Targaryen family.) In the final scene of last season, the Night King took down the great wall of ice that has protected Westeros for centuries. Things are looking very bad for the human race indeed. The first full trailer dropped last month, giving us brief glimpses of all the surviving characters. Everyone is gearing up to take on the Night King and his ice zombie hordes—everyone except Cersei, that is, whose genius plan is to wait it out and let her enemy's forces be depleted (if not wiped out entirely). That means a whole lot of people are converging on Winterfell, starting with Jon and Dany, accompanied by her Unsullied and Dothraki armies—and remaining two dragons, of course. It's a grim homecoming for Jon in one respect, since Northerners don't trust outsiders and resent their king for bending the knee to a foreign queen and relinquishing his shiny new crown. The emotional payoff for viewers is all the reunions that inevitably take place at Winterfell. Jon hasn't seen Bran or Arya since the first season. Arya is pleased to see Gendry (Joe Dempsie) still alive—and surprised to see her frenemy, the Hound (Rory McCann), still breathing, seeing as she last left him for dead. Tyrion hasn't seen his ex-wife Sansa since the Purple Wedding, when she fled and he wound up on trial for a murder he didn't commit. But not all the reunions are happy ones, as one might expect when former adversaries must reluctantly join forces to defeat a common threat. As always, the dragons steal the show, and the sight of them soaring over a snowy Winterfell is glorious. "What do they eat?" Sansa snippily asks Dany, after complaining that she never expected to have to provide for so many extra mouths. "Whatever they want," Dany responds. Game of Thrones has always had its share of placeholder episodes, where things advance incrementally and very little of major import happens. Such episodes serve a purpose in the overall narrative arc, shuttling characters around and setting up the relationships and conflict that make the big set pieces all the more powerful. This isn't quite one of those kinds of episodes, since rather a lot happens in just under an hour. But the big fireworks are still to come with the upcoming Battle of Winterfell, rumored to be the most massive staged battle sequence of the series. We should expect to see at least some of the fan favorites fall, and fairly early in this final season. So taking the time to relish some bittersweet reunions before all hell breaks loose seems like a fitting opening salvo. Source: Winter is here: Humans rally as Night King advances on GoT S8 debut episode (Ars Technica) Poster's note: The original article contains an image slideshhow. To view it, please visit the link above.
  12. Physicist Rebecca Thompson weighs in on all your burning science questions for GoT. Enlarge / You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks. HBO Warning: This story contains some mild spoilers from the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones. The world of Game of Thrones may be fictional, but that doesn't stop its fans from heatedly arguing about all the possible underlying science, because nerd-gassing about one's favorite science fiction is a time-honored tradition. Just how hot is dragon's breath? Is there a real-world equivalent of wildfire? What's the best and worst way to die? And how fast would Gendry have to run back to the wall to send a raven to King's Landing requesting help? These and other scintillating topics are discussed in a forthcoming book by physicist (and uber-fan) Rebecca Thompson, . The book comes out in October from MIT Press, but as we gear up for the premiere of the final season Sunday night, Thompson graciously gave us a sneak preview into some of the burning science questions she investigated. Hot fire, hot steel, and hot locks After completing her PhD, Thompson spent several years doing physics outreach for the American Physical Society, and she authors the society's popular Spectra educational comic book series. (Attendees of San Diego Comic-Con have likely seen her in costume as Spectra on the exhibit floor.) This is her first popular science book, inspired by a talk she gave to physics teachers a few years ago on the physics of dragon fire and ice walls in Game of Thrones. Scouring the many fan sites on which such things are debated at length, she found far more interesting science questions than what could fit into a single talk—it turned into a book's worth of science, in fact. Fire, Ice, and Physics covers everything from the physics of dragon fire and Valyrian steel, to the best and worst ways to die. Thompson even ponders why Jon Snow never wears a hat in freezing conditions beyond the wall—the obvious answer is that it would mess up his hair, and the author admits to being a fan of said hair. "But wearing a hat is more important than just having thick luscious hair," she said. That's because the head doesn't have much fat to insulate the body against the cold. Also, a hat would keep warm air trapped close to the head, whereas the wind would blow through Jon's unruly locks and dissipate said heat. Still, it's not any worse than not wearing gloves, per Thompson; it's a myth that the body loses most of its heat through the head. Enlarge / Viserion likely breathed hot blue fire. Even that might not be enough to bring down the wall. HBO Valyrian steel may be fictional, but there is a real-life counterpart: Damascus steel, known for its high carbon content, which made it brittle and therefore difficult to work with. The secret of how it was made has been lost to history, but a few years ago German scientists x-rayed a sample from a Damascus steel blade and found carbon nanotubes at the sharp edge. They likely formed as a natural result of the smelting process, which strengthened the steel. "When the swords were made, they were often quenched in the urine of red-headed boys," said Thompson. "The acid in the urine etched off all the other material and exposed the carbon nanotubes. While fire-breathing dragons are entirely fictional, it's still possible to analyze its properties from a scientific perspective. Dragon fire is white-hot, certainly hot enough to melt iron and steel to forge the Iron Throne. It would also be able to melt granite, which is why Harrenhal has "that melted candle look," according to Thompson. The bigger the dragon, the hotter the flame it produces. Drogon, the biggest of Daenerys' three dragons, would spew fire more than capable of melting the Red Keep at King's Landing. And what about poor Viserion, killed by the Night King and revived as an undead Ice Dragon? He breathes blue fire, and fans have hotly debated whether it burns hot or cold. Per Thompson, a cold blue fire might cause some thermal cracking in the Wall, but probably not enough to take it down entirely. For that you would need hot blue fire—and even then, it would take some time to bore through a 300-foot-wide wall. A simple flyby, as depicted in the Season 7 finale, wouldn't be sufficient (although the Night King keeps Viserion hovering in one spot of the wall for a bit). "The majority of the energy to melt ice is to break the [chemical] bonds, not to raise the temperature," said Thompson. Wildfire is a chemical weapon that plays a major role on the series. It's not water soluble, which means you can't wash it off and it floats on the surface water. It's sticky, and it burns green. The closest real-world equivalent would be napalm, which was sticky, burns on water, and burns hot enough to melt steel and stone, according to Thompson. Another real-world contender is the "Greek fire" used by the Byzantine Empire. It was fairly stable, could burn on water, and could only be extinguished with vinegar or sand. It likely contained pine tar, sulphur, and either saltpeter or quick lime, among other ingredients. It had all the elements of wildfire except one: wildfire burns green. "The one piece that is hard to reproduce is the green fire, because for that you need certain elements, like copper," she said. Enlarge / Viserys gets his golden crown, and it's actually a most merciful death. HBO Death decoded Given the high body count on Game of Thrones, Thompson naturally had to include a chapter on the science of the many different ways to die on the show. For instance, Ned Stark may have experienced a most unjust death at the order of King Joffrey way back in season 1, but beheading is actually one of the more merciful deaths. That said, Ned may well have remained conscious for a good ten seconds after losing his head, based on a study in the Netherlands. The scientist implanted electrodes in the heads of rats and beheaded them using tiny guillotines, and measured how long brain activity continued to register afterward. Then they extrapolated that to humans to arrive at the ten second estimate. The death of Dany's weaselly brother, Viserys, in season 1 would be an even faster way to die. Recall that Khal Drogo melted down some golden medallions and poured the molten gold over the aspiring king's head. Would Viserys have died of shock, or suffocation? Neither, it seems; he would have died from a boiling brain. Thompson researched the thermal conductivity of bone and found it conducts heat quite well. Molten gold has a temperature of around 1947 degrees F. "If you assume the brain is mostly water (73 percent), his brain would boil extremely quickly," she said—in about 3.5 seconds. "He would probably never even feel the heat. If you consider what would be the most merciful death on the show, it would absolutely be the Golden Crown." By far the most agonizing death was that suffered by poor Shireen Baratheon in season 5—a death so horrible that Thompson had a difficult time even writing about it. The most merciful way to burn someone at the stake is to pile up green wood in such a way as to enclose the victim, so that they die from smoke inhalation fairly quickly. In the case of Shireen, the wood was stacked on a pallet at her feet, burning her from the bottom up and ensuring she was conscious for most of her agonizing death. It could have taken as long as 30 minutes for her to die. So Melisandre lied when she told a frightened Shireen, "It will all be over soon." Enlarge / Poor Princess Shireen Baratheon suffered one of the most agonizing deaths. HBO Another means of slow, painful death would be the fictional Manticore poison on the tip of Oberyn's spear when he bested the Mountain (at least until he started monologuing). It would likely be a combination of two different actual poisons: the necrotizing venom of a brown recluse spider, for instance, paired with the slow-acting venom of a scorpion bite, a neurotoxin that targets the central nervous system, paralyzing and ultimately killing the prey. A fictional beast that produced a venom capable of doing both would make for a very impressive poison indeed. As for Oberyn's horrifying death at the hands of a mortally wounded Mountain, Thompson found that it takes about 538 pounds of force to crush a human skull. Not even the Mountain could have produced that much force, even leaning on Oberyn with all his weight. Her source for this information was a study conducted for manufacturers of bicycle helmets that involved filling cadaver skulls with goo to simulate the human brain and putting the skulls in a vise to see how much force was required to crush them. (As an avid triathlete, Thompson credits such research for keeping her safe when the inevitable accident occurs: "I'm very grateful to all the cadavers that were involved.") Travel time One of the sticking points that bothered even hardcore fans last season was just how Daenerys could have gotten all the way from King's Landing to north of the Wall in time to save Jon Snow and his merry band of wight hunters from the Night King's army. "We spent all of season 2 just traveling to King's Landing," said Thompson. So she sat down and crunched the numbers on how fast Gendry would have to run to get back to the wall; how fast a raven could fly to King's Landing to deliver a message to Daenerys; and how long it would take Dany and her dragons to fly back to the north to save the hunting party. Enlarge / Physicist Rebecca Thompson poses with her own baby dragon. Rebecca Thompson/MIT press Thompson had to make certain assumptions, of course, but assuming that Westeros is roughly the size England, it's doable. Granted, Gendry would have to be running a marathon, averaging an eight-minute mile. The lake had refrozen by the time Daenerys arrives, which her calculations showed would take a couple of days—sufficient time for a raven to get to King's Landing and the dragons to fly back up north. "So it wasn't that bad if you assume everyone was moving as fast as possible," she said. "And yes, I did make the obligatory reference to the air speed velocity of an unladen sparrow." The general rule of thumb when working science into fiction is that you want just enough realistic science to keep people from being pulled out of the story by niggling questions. "Here, it's not that the science is bad, but it's something that pulls people out of the story anyway," said Thompson. "They're probably not going to sit down and do the math to see that it's reasonable." So what is Thompson most looking forward to in the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones? She hopes that Drogon will level the Red Keep with his dragon fire, because she's curious how it will be depicted on the show. "Granite is a mixture of several different kinds of rock, different crystals," she said. "Are they going to have it run like molten lava, or crack and crumble?" The Red Keep might end up looking like Harrenhal. "Personally I think keeping it scientifically correct would be visually stunning," said Thompson. Source: Who had the most merciful death on Game of Thrones? Science has an answer (Ars Technica)
  13. Game of Thrones Most Popular TV Show to Push ‘Pirate’ Malware Game of Thrones is widely known as the most pirated TV-show in history. That's quite an achievement, but one that comes with a downside for the unauthorized audience. Research from Kaspersky reveals that the popular TV-show is also used by scammers as a prime payload for malware. In recent years copyright holders have been rather concerned with the health of pirates’ computers. They regularly highlight reports which show that pirate sites are rife with malware and even alert potential pirates-to-be about the dangers of these sites. While some of these claims are exaggerated, there is no denying that malware is spread through pirate sites. On torrent sites, this is usually done in the form of fake releases uploaded by malware peddlers, who disguise themselves as legitimate uploaders. While the .torrent files and the sites are not the problem, the actual downloads can include all sorts of nastiness. This problem isn’t new. We have highlighted it repeatedly over the years, going back more than a decade in some cases. Although it’s been hard to quantify the problem, a new report from Kaspersky Lab adds some intriguing context to the phenomenon. The cybersecurity company and anti-virus provider decided to take a closer look at how scammers use popular TV shows to lure victims. Are some shows more frequently used than others, for example, and which ones are most successful in delivering their payload? “Our goal was to see which TV series were the most popular with the malware pushers and to take a closer look at what kind of threats are distributed that way,” Kaspersky writes. The research provides a snapshot of how malware spreads through downloads of 31 popular TV shows. Kaspersky ran these titles against its in-house database of malware encounters, to see how often the TV-shows were linked to malware. The results show that last year, 126,340 users were attacked by malicious payloads that could be linked to (fake) pirated copies of popular TV-shows. The total number of recorded attacks among all users was 451,636. That translates to little under 1,000 malware attacks per day. The 2018 numbers are a significant decrease compared to the year before when 188,769 users were attacked. According to Kaspersky, this drop is in line with a decrease in the overall prevalence of malware attacks in other areas. Torrent sites are losing traffic slowly as well, which may play a role too. While the number of malware attacks linked to popular TV-shows is sizable, it’s worth keeping in mind that these originate from uploads by scammers. These uploads are usually swiftly removed from well-moderated torrent sites but can clearly survive longer on other indexes. Looking at the individual show titles, Kaspersky found that Game of Thrones accounted for 17% of all user attacks in the sample. This is quite an achievement since there were no new episodes released in 2018. The number of total attacks and unique malware samples were also the highest for Game of Thrones. “Of all the TV series analyzed, Game of Thrones had the greatest number of users attacked by malware of the same name – 20,934. It tried to infect users 129,819 times, and the total number of Game of Thrones-themed malware files in our threat collection is 9,986. “This makes the show an unmatched leader in popularity not just among users but also among cybercriminals looking for the most effective way to distribute malware,” Kaspersky adds. Top 10 TV shows used as a disguise for malware in 2018 (credit Kaspersky) The list of top 10 most popular ‘malware’ TV shows is completed by other popular titles such as The Walking Dead, Arrow, and Suits. These are familiar names in our yearly list of most pirated TV-shows, which makes sense, as scammers seek out the most sought after releases. A more detailed look at the episodes within a season further shows that the premiere and season finale are the most likely to be infected. As such, they also target the most users. “The common theme we were able to spot was that the first and last episodes were used as a disguise for malware each season. Also, the titles of the opening and closing episodes of each season were used the most actively to hide malware compared to other episodes,” Kaspersky writes. GoT: number of infected files and unique users attacked in seasons 1, 6 and 7 (credit Kaspersky) While Game of Thrones is the uncrowned king of torrent related malware, American Horror Story also deserves a mention. Of all the researched TV-shows, this show was the most effective, as it hit an average of three users per infected release. Finally, Kaspersky reports that “Not-a-virus:Downloader” and “Not-a-virus:AdWare” are the most common threats which are shared TV show content. The most popular ‘dangerous’ malware was the Trojan category. With the final season of Game of Thrones coming up later this month, Kaspersky’s findings should serve as a “stark” warning to pirates. The anti-virus vendor notes that using legitimate sites is the best option to avoid trouble. Other tips include checking the extension of a downloaded file, avoiding suspicious links that promise early releases, and checking the comments before downloading a torrent. Source
  14. Hackers have stolen proprietary information from the media giant HBO. The leak includes a confidential outline for the fourth episode of the current Game of Thrones season, and episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104 are among the loot. The Game of Thrones leak doesn't include the full episode, but there are plenty of spoilers (none are mentioned in this article). It appears that yet another large media outlet has fallen victim to a high-profile hack. After Sony and, indirectly, Netflix, hackers have now compromised the network of the American cable and television network HBO. Sunday evening a mysterious email was sent to reporters, announcing the prominent breach. “Hi to all mankind. The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!” the email read. While several reports were published, the first by Entertainment Weekly, the actual leaked files were not widely available on the usual pirate sites. However, a few hours ago a website appeared online that claims to hold the ‘treasure trove.’ Winter-leak.com, a reference to the famous Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming” phrase, does indeed list several files that appear to come from HBO. “In a complicate operation, we successfully penetrated in to the HBO Internal Network, Emails, technical platforms, and database and got precious and confidential stuff that blaze your eyes,” the hacker, or hackers write on their website. The hackers claim to have 1.5 terabytes of data from the company. So far, previously unreleased episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure and Room 104 are featured on the site. However, there are also three separate archives listed, with over a terabyte of data. Most prominent, perhaps, is a preliminary outline of the fourth episode of the current Game of Thrones season, which will air this coming Sunday. At TorrentFreak, we always strive to find proof for reported leaks, and from what we’ve seen and gathered, it does indeed appear to be the real deal. The Game of Thrones information, for example, lists a preliminary outline of the fourth episode of season 7, including many spoilers. As can be seen below, the outline itself is watermarked by the hackers, with the tagline “HBO is falling.” Perhaps even more unusual, the leak also includes a video, featuring Game of Thrones images, the leaders, and a textual outline of the episode. As with the outline, the videos are available for the third and fourth episode of season 7. HBO’s chairman and CEO, Richard Plepler, has confirmed that the company’s infrastructure was breached, but didn’t mention what information was accessed. He sent an email to employees a few hours ago, informing them about the “cyber incident.” “As most of you have probably heard by now, there has been a cyber incident directed at the company which has resulted in some stolen proprietary information, including some of our programming,” he wrote. “Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests.” The full contents of the leaks have yet to be analyzed. It’s doubtful that any Game of Thrones episodes will leak, but there’s likely to be a lot of confidential information in the copied data, which HBO would otherwise prefer to keep to itself. HBO has already mentioned that it’s doing everything in its power to prevent the leaks from spreading any further. In addition, they are also working with law enforcement to track down the people responsible. TorrentFreak
  15. Data published by the piracy monitoring firm MUSO suggests that the season opener of Game of Thrones was pirated 90 million times. Most of the traffic was generated by unauthorized streaming services, with torrent downloads making up a small fraction of the total, less than ten percent. Last Sunday, the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones aired in dozens of countries worldwide. The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season as well. Like every year, the torrent download figures quickly ran into the millions. However, little is known about the traffic that goes to streaming portals, which have outgrown traditional file-sharing sites in recent years. One of the main problems is that it’s impossible for outsiders to know exactly how many visitors pirate streaming services get. Traffic data for these sites are not public, which makes it difficult to put an exact figure on the number of views one particular video has. Piracy monitoring firm MUSO hasn’t shied away from this unexplored territory though and has now released some hard numbers. According to MUSO, the premiere episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones has been pirated more than 90 million times in only three days. A massive number, which is largely driven by streaming traffic. Exactly 77,913,032 pirate views came from streaming portals, while public torrent traffic sits in second place with 8,356,382 downloads. Another 4,949,298 downloads are linked to direct download sites, while the remaining 523,109 come from private torrents. Why other platforms such as Usenet are not covered remains unexplained in the press release, but without these the total is already quite substantial, to say the least. MUSO reports that most pirate traffic comes from the United States, with 15.1 million unauthorized downloads and streams. The United Kingdom follows in second place with 6.2 million, before Germany, India, and Indonesia, with between 4 and 5 million each. Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO and Co-Founder, notes that the results may come as a surprise to some industry insiders, describing them as “huge.” “There is no denying that these figures are huge, so they’re likely to raise more than a few eyebrows in the mainstream industry, but it’s in line with the sort of scale we see across piracy sites and should be looked at objectively. “What we’re seeing here isn’t just P2P torrent downloads but unauthorized streams and every type of piracy around the premiere. This is the total audience picture, which is usually unreported,” Chatterley adds. While there is no denying that the numbers are indeed huge, it would probably be better to view them as estimates. MUSO generally sources its data from SimilarWeb, which uses a sample of 200 million ‘devices’ to estimate website traffic. Website visits are then seen as “downloads,” and the sample data is extrapolated into the totals. This also explains why other types of download traffic, such as Usenet, are not included at all. These are not web-based. Similarly, the data doesn’t appear to cover all countries. Game of Thrones piracy is very substantial in China, for example, but in its previous reports, MUSO didn’t exclude Chinese traffic. Taking the caveats above into account, MUSO’s data could be a good estimate of the total (web) pirate traffic for the Game of Thrones premiere. This would suggest some pretty high piracy rates in some countries, but we’ve seen stranger things. — Note: TorrentFreak reached out to MUSO for further details on its methodology. The company confirmed that its data is based on traffic to 23,000 of the most-used piracy sites. The data is collected from over 200 million devices, located in over 200 countries. This appears to confirm that it is indeed SimilarWeb data. — Countries with the highest GoT piracy activity, according to MUSO: United States of America: 15,075,951 United Kingdom: 6,252,903 Germany: 4,897,280 India: 4,335,331 Indonesia: 4,286,927 Philippines: 4,189,030 Canada: 3,182,851 France: 2,881,467 Turkey: 2,802,458 Vietnam: 2,436,149 Australia: 2,241,463 Russian Federation: 2,196,799 Netherlands: 1,881,718 Brazil: 1,796,759 Malaysia: 1,737,005 TorrentFreak
  16. The season finale of Game of Thrones has set a brand new piracy record, with a quarter million people sharing a single file at the same time. During the first 12 hours roughly 1.5 million file-sharers downloaded a pirated copy of the popular show, a number that will swell to over 7.5 million during the days to come. The fourth season of Game of Thrones has been the most-viewed so far, both through official channels and among pirates. The season finale was therefore expected to break all previous records. The official U.S. ratings that just came in show that “The Children” was the most viewed season finale thus far, with 7.1 million people tuning in. In the black market the same episode did well too, setting a mind-boggling piracy record. The latest episode resulted in the largest BitTorrent swarm ever. That is, never before have so many people gathered to share a single file on the Internet. A few hours after the first torrent of the show appeared on torrent sites, the Demonii tracker reported that 254,114 people were sharing one single torrent at the same time. 190,701 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 63,413 were still downloading. The previous record was also held by Game of Thrones, with a little over 200,000 people sharing a single file. There was also quite bit of interest in higher definition releases. The most popular 720p copy was shared by 108,539 BitTorrent users simultaneously, and the most shared 1080p release had 23,922 people connected to it. Game of Thrones’ new “simultaneous” file-sharing record Data gathered by TorrentFreak further shows that, in 12 hours, the season finale has been downloaded roughly 1.5 million times. Translated into actual data, that’s close to 2,000 terabytes transferred in half a day. The download total is expected to increase to more than 7.5 million during the weeks to come and means that unless a miracle happens, Game of Thrones will be crowned the most-pirated TV-show of the year once again. A brief inspection of the download locations shows that Game of Thrones pirates come from all over the world, as we’ve seen previously. The show is particularly popular in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Interestingly, Game of Thrones is available through legal channels in all countries listed above, albeit not cheaply. Despite the massive piracy numbers, we haven’t heard too many piracy complaints thus far, quite the contrary. Jeff Bewkes, CEO of HBO’s parent company Time Warner previously that piracy resulted in more subscriptions for his company, and that receiving the title of “most-pirated” was “better than an Emmy.” In any case, despite, or perhaps thanks to the massive piracy, Game of Thrones is doing better than ever. Source: TorrentFreak
  17. For the first time in history more than 200,000 people have shared a single file online at the very same time. A few hours ago Game of Thrones pirates smashed the old record, and a day after the latest episode came online more than 1.5 million people have already grabbed a copy. Game of Thrones has been the focus of many piracy discussions in recent years, and for good reason. The HBO hit series has a following of millions of “pirates” who prefer to watch the show through unauthorized channels instead of paid subscriptions. Some TV-industry insiders closely connected to the show see it as a compliment, or believe the show may even benefit from these rogue followers. On the other hand, however, HBO is cracking down on fans and sites who spread the show without permission. The pirates themselves are also divided in the reasons why they pirate. Some have no other option, as Game of Thrones is not available where they live, while others simply find the legal options too expensive. In the midst of all these different view points there is one stable factor. The demand among pirates is growing year after year. During the first season in 2011 the most popular episode was shared 3.4 million times during the entire year, a number that’s now reached in just a few days. Game of Thrones is particularly popular on torrent sites and this week BitTorrent pirates broke the magical record of 200,000 simultaneous sharers. A few hours after the first torrent of the show appeared on torrent sites, the Demonii tracker reported that 207,054 people were sharing one single torrent at the same time. 163,496 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 43,558 were still downloading. These are mind-boggling numbers that we’ve never seen before. The latest record was set just a few weeks ago, also for a Game of Thrones episode. Record-breaking 200,000+ simultaneous sharers This Game of Thrones torrent isn’t the only one that is widely shared. There are several copies of the show available in varying qualities which also have thousands of people downloading. Counting all the different releases it’s estimated that the latest Game of Thrones episode was downloaded more than 1.5 million times during the first day. This makes the show the likely candidate to be crowned the most-downloaded TV-show at the end of the year. As previously revealed, Game of Thrones downloaders come from all over the world. Data gathered by TorrentFreak previously revealed that most downloaders came from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. It will be interesting to see if the current record will be broken again later this year. For now, however, there are no signs that the pirates’ interest is waning. This means that, unless a miracle happens, Game of Thrones will be crowned the most torrented show for the third consecutive year. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. HBO is cracking down on unauthorized copies of Game of Thrones that have appeared online over the past weeks. The TV-network has sent Google several takedown requests to remove thousands of links from its search engine. Interestingly enough, the requests also list the popular show's official trailers. Game of Thrones is without a doubt the most pirated TV-show on the Internet. The popular series entered its fourth season early April and broke the record of most people sharing a pirated copy simultaneously. While several people connected to Game of Thrones have noted that piracy might actually benefit the show, HBO executives are clamping down on widespread piracy nonetheless. Over the past few weeks the TV-network has sent dozens of takedown requests to Google, listing thousands of allegedly pirated copies of their work. Many of these are links to torrent sites and streaming portals where recent episodes can be downloaded for free. With these takedown requests HBO hopes to make it harder for people to find unauthorized copies. However, a careful inspection of the notices by TorrentFreak reveals that promotional material such as trailers are also being censored. Unfortunately for HBO, Google happily processed these requests and removed the “infringing” trailers from their search results. As can be seen below, a search for “Game of Thrones trailer torrent” includes a notice that several results have been removed on copyright grounds. GoT trailer torrent search results Looking at the individual notices, it becomes clear that these are indeed links to promotional trailers which should be freely available to the public. The DMCA notice pictured in the screenshot below lists several of these URLs, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. GoT trailer takedowns The current crackdown on Game of Thrones runs counter to comments from director David Petrarca who said that piracy generates much-needed “cultural buzz.” These dubious takedowns may create a buzz as well, but probably not the kind HBO is hoping for. As for the trailer takedowns, we expect that these have been taken down in error. That wouldn’t be HBO’s first mistake either, as the company previously tried to censor their own website HBO.com because it apparently contained infringing content. Perhaps their automated takedown tools need some further adjustments? Source: TorrentFreak
  19. A site hosting movie and TV show screenshots to be used as components in fan created artwork has received a copyright takedown from HBO. ScreenCapped says that the company ordered the takedown of libraries of Game of Thrones and True Blood screenshots. The action comes as a surprise considering HBO's stance that even full-on piracy of their TV shows creates valuable buzz. If one had to single out a current TV show that is most-often related with Internet piracy it would have to be Game of Thrones. The show has been shared by millions of people and just last week broke yet another swarm record with 193,418 simultaneous sharers. There has been much discussion over HBO’s stance to this massive piracy. Last year, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo described the unauthorized downloading as “a compliment“, a statement that was followed up by plans to smarten up release schedules. The theory at HBO parent Time Warner is that while piracy is largely undesirable, it helps to generate buzz and reduces advertising expenditure. The company also believes that when fans enthuse over Game of Thrones it’s excellent word-of-mouth promotion, so that makes today’s news even more unusual. The developing situation involves fan site ScreenCapped.net. The site hosts user-uploaded screenshots of popular movies and TV shows which its users transform into fan-created artwork. The piece below is based on the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The site has a pretty large archive of screenshots from dozens of movies and TV shows, which until recently included HBO’s Game of Thrones and True Blood. But in a surprise move HBO has now accused the site of engaging in copyright infringement and ordered it to remove screenshots of these key titles. Screenshots from both shows no longer appear on the site. Worried at the implications of the HBO DMCA notice, a petition has been launched on Change.org in support of the site and requesting that HBO reconsiders its move. In the petition, which at the time of writing has already received more than 2,000 signatures, ScreenCapped operator Raina Stephens lays out her request to HBO’s anti-piracy director Jake Snyder. “The fans and staff of Screencapped.net ask that you remove the DMCA against Screencapped.net so that the site may continue to provide HBO fans with high quality screencaps for non-profit use,” Stephens writes. Users of the site have been expressing their disappointment on Change.org. “Come on, guys. You’re going to slap a DMCA claim on ONE site out of HUNDREDS for hosting screen captures?! It’s not like they’re hosting downloads of your episodes!” user Mandi S writes. “Drop the claim so I can get my favorite screencap gallery back! How do you think we fan artists make those amazing arts that you KNOW you love. Get real and drop the suit, PLEASE.” Another user, Alessia Colognesi from Italy, questions whether the move makes financial sense to HBO. “It’s ludicrous to think that watching/having screencaps will take away from the income of money that you might have. The only reasons why screencaps exist is to let creative people share their love for something making graphics, designs and such; and that’s a good thing because that way other people can take a look at a show and maybe start watching it. Go do something better with your time,” Colognesi concludes. While the precise motivation behind the takedown remains unclear, it’s difficult to argue with the two key points above. ScreenCapped isn’t offering the actual shows for download and discouraging fans from getting even more invested in a show via innocuous-looking screenshots seems to run counter to Time Warner/HBO’s “buzz is good” plan. Source: TorrentFreak
  20. The latest episode of Game of Thrones has broken the record for the most people sharing a file simultaneously via BitTorrent. More than 193,000 people shared a single copy yesterday evening, and roughly 1.5 million people downloaded the episode during the first day. Yesterday the second episode of Game of Thrones’ fourth season made its way onto the Internet. As expected, this generated quite a bit of activity on various torrent sites. From all over the world people virtually gathered around the various pirated copies of the show, breaking the record for the largest BitTorrent swarm ever in the process. A few hours after the second episode came online the Demonii tracker reported that 193,418 people where sharing one single torrent. 145,594 had a complete copy of the episode and continued to upload, while 47,824 were still downloading the file. These are unprecedented numbers – never before have 193,418 people shared a single file simultaneously. The previous record was set last year, when the season finale of Game of Thrones had 171,572 people sharing on a single tracker. Last week’s season opening, on the other hand, had “only” 140,000 people sharing the most active torrent. There wasn’t per se less interest in this episode, but at the time the downloaders were spread out more across different torrents. Game of Thrones’ new file-sharing record In addition to this record-breaking torrent, there were also several other Game of Thrones torrents out there with tens of thousands of people sharing. Counting all the different releases it’s estimated that the latest Game of Thrones episode was downloaded roughly 1.5 million times during the first day. This makes the show the likely candidate to be crowned the most-downloaded TV-show at the end of the year. As previously revealed, Game of Thrones downloaders come from all over the world. Data gathered during the first 12 hours after the release last week revealed that most downloaders came from Australia, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and The Netherlands. Interestingly, Game of Thrones is available through legal channels in all countries listed above, albeit not cheaply. The current record probably won’t last for long. The show’s ratings generally go up throughout the season, and so do the unauthorized downloads. This makes it likely that the barrier of 200,000 simultaneous file-sharers will be broken during the weeks to come. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. Millions of people pirate Game of Thrones instead of paying for it. One of the prime reasons is the hefty price tag that comes with a premium subscription, which isn't really a surprise if you look at the costs in some countries. Honestly, would you pay $500 to follow the latest season? In a few hours a new episode of Game of Thrones will appear on BitTorrent, and a few days later roughly four million people will have downloaded this unofficial release. Those who pirate the show have several reasons for doing so. In some countries there is simply no legal option available, however, the price tag that comes with many of the legal services is almost as big of a hurdle. So what does it cost to access Game of Thrones legally in the countries where the show is most frequently pirated? We decided to take a look based on the list of countries that had the most Game of Thrones file-sharers last week. Below is a selection of the options people have in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. Australia In Australia, Game of Thrones fans need a Foxtel subscription. When we look at the packages offered on the website the cheapest option appears to be the movie and drama combo, which costs $74 AUD (~ 70 USD) per month. However, the minimum subscription term is six months, which with the added costs adds up to $520 AUD (~ 590 USD). Assuming that someone’s only interested in watching Game of Thrones, an Australian fan will have to pay $52 AUD (~ 49 USD) per episode, which is rather expensive. While it’s not advertised as any of the standard options, there’s also the Foxtel Play subscription. This allows people to watch Game of Thrones on demand on a variety of devices. The regular cost of this plan is $50 AUD (~ 50 USD) per month, and there’s currently an offer to get the first three months for $35 AUD (~ 33 USD). The Foxtel website notes that there is no long contract, which makes this option considerably cheaper. The United States In the United States there are several options available, which vary per cable provider. The cost of most HBO subscriptions are between $15 and $25 per month, depending on where you live and what your current plan is. The downside, in addition to being locked in for several months sometimes, is that the HBO deals require a cable/Internet subscription. This makes the total package considerably more expensive, more than $100 per month in some cases. But then again, pirates need an Internet subscription anyway. The United Kingdom In the United Kingdom Game of Thrones is available via Sky Atlantic. The costs are £21.50 (36 USD) a month, but with a minimum contract period of 12 months. This means that for those who are only interested in Game of Thrones, there’s a price tag of £25.80 per episode. The good news is that UK viewers can watch the episodes simultaneously with the US broadcast, which 9,000 people did this past Sunday. Canada In Canada, Game of Thrones comes in a package of The Movie Network. The price is roughly $20 CAD (~ 18 USD) per month on both Bell and Rogers. This also requires a digital or satellite TV subscription, which drives the price up to over $60 CAD per month for those who don’t have one. Again, as with the previous examples, some plans require a several-months-long contract which makes it less interesting for those who only want to watch Game of Thrones. The Netherlands In the Netherlands HBO can be ordered as an add-on to most standard cable TV subscriptions. The standard price is roughly 15 euros (~ 21 USD) per month, and several providers allow subscribers to cancel after a month. The cheapest cable subscriptions in the Netherlands average around 10 euros, which brings the total package to roughly 25 euros (~ 35 USD) per month. Interestingly, HBO NL offers the first episode of season 4 for free, on YouTube. Of course, this is only available to people from the Netherlands. Conclusion The above shows that Game of Thrones certainly doesn’t come cheap, especially not for the true cable-cutters who have no interest in the other content it’s bundled with. While most people will agree that paying for content is the right thing to do, it’s not always an intuitive choice when a single episode is twice as expensive as a box office ticket for the average Hollywood blockbuster. So do all these pirates have a point or not? According to Bruce Meagher, corporate director of “$52 AUD per episode” Foxtel, they do not. “What we are left with is an argument at the margins about a few dollars. Yet some people still feel that they should be entitled to take this show for free without the consent of its creators rather than pay a reasonable price for an extraordinary product,” he says. “The Lannisters may not be a pleasant lot, but they, at least, always pay their debts,” he adds. So what do you think? Source: TorrentFreak
  22. With more than a million downloads in half a day, the premiere of Game of Thrones' fourth season has set a new piracy record. People from all over the world grabbed a copy, and at its height this morning over 300,000 BitTorrent users were sharing the episode simultaneously. Yesterday evening saw a massive demand for the premiere of Game of Thrones’ fourth season, both on legal and less-authorized channels. The unprecedented demand caused trouble for the HBO Go service, which crashed and was unreachable for several hours on end. This outage probably motivated some to look for unauthorized copies, which were widely available through dozens of torrent sites soon after the episode finished. Unlike HBO Go, downloads via BitTorrent actually benefit from the increased interest, which usually means that downloads finish faster. And indeed, there has been plenty of interest in unauthorized copies of the Game of Thrones season premiere. Data gathered by TorrentFreak reveals that half a day after the first episode appeared online over a million people have already grabbed a copy via a torrent site. Earlier this morning, more than 300,000 people were actively sharing one of the three most-popular torrents. The number of downloads is roughly the same as last year, but the season premiere didn’t set a record for the largest BitTorrent swarm, most likely because there were multiple popular copies available. The most shared torrent file had around 140,000 people sharing at once at its height this morning. Game of Thrones sharers During the days to come the number of downloads is expected to grow by several millions. Last year Game of Thrones became the most pirated TV-show for the second time, and with today’s numbers it is well on its way to securing the title for another year. In addition to the downloads, we also looked at the countries people were sharing from. A sample of 18,333 IP-addresses collected over the day shows that Australia takes the crown with 11.6% of the total. The United States is a good second with 9.3%, followed by the United Kingdom with 5.8%. The number one spot for Australia is all the more impressive since it has a population of just over 22 million people, relatively small compared to the other two countries. Looking at the city level we see that most downloads come from Melbourne, before Athens and Sydney. So, why are all these people pirating Game of Thrones? As always, there are many reasons why people may choose torrents or other pirate sources. In some cases there is simply no legal alternative, because of licensing issues for example, or due to technical troubles such as those suffered yesterday by HBO Go. In other cases the legal options are too limited, restrictive, or expensive. The reasons above are not exhaustive of course, there are many more reasons why people turn to BitTorrent. For some it’s become a habit that will be hard to break, no matter where they live and how good the legal alternatives are. If there are any Game of Thrones pirates reading this, let us know what drives you in the comments. #Country%City%1Australia11.6%Melbourne3.2%2United States9.3%Athens2.9%3United Kingdom5.8%Sydney2.0%4Canada5.2%London1.9%5The Netherlands4.7%Stockholm1.7%6Philippines4.6%Amsterdam1.7%7India4.2%Madrid1.5%8Greece3.6%Warsaw1.4%9Poland3.0%Brisbane1.4%10Sweden2.7%Perth1.3% Source: TorrentFreak
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