By Walt Hickey
The last Numlock of 2020! I’ll see you all next on January 3. Have a great Christmas and happy New Year. See you all on the other side, thanks for reading.
Scientists in Colorado have injected 120 black-footed ferrets with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The ferrets are among the most endangered mammals in North America, and the population that got the preliminary jab is captive at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Fort Collins. They got the shot for a couple of reasons: the first being it’s a lot easier to get an experimental veterinary vaccine past the feds, and also because the ferrets’ genetic similarity to mink populations — which have been ravaged by Covid outbreaks in commercial settings — led their caretakers to fear the worst for the species, which was declared extinct in 1979. A population was later found at a ranch in Wyoming, then eventually lost to sylvatic plague, but not before biologists saved 18 ferrets that served as the seeds of their recovery. Today, there are 300 black-footed ferrets in captivity — 180 at Fort Collins — and another 400 have been released into the wild.
There Will Be Feasting And Dancing
A poll of U.S. adults found that 77 percent said this year was worse than last year, while 11 percent said that it was better than last year. That latter group of maniacs is a question for another time — man, your 2019 must have sucked — because in general people have high, high hopes for 2021. Fully 59 percent of Americans said that they think next year will be better than 2020, while 17 percent said it’d be worse and 12 percent said it’d be the same. This year, more people things were getting worse than getting better across every metric — mental health, personal finances, physical health, work-life balance, and job security — except for one, “love life.” Heck yeah, people, get it.
Tomorrow is a holiday, and many people took things pretty close to the wire in terms of shopping for it. Indeed, the hottest stocking stuffer of 2020 will be gift cards, which have been flying off shelves amid an unprecedented delivery crunch and early closing window for shipping. In the first week of December, gift card purchases were double the rate of the same week of 2019, and last weekend sales of gift cards were up 48 percent compared to earlier in the week. According to InMarket, the average shopper spent 17.6 percent more on gift cards in 2020 compared to 2019. That’s great for merchants: an estimated $3.5 billion in unredeemed gift card balances is kept by stores annually.
Kickstarter is the go-to platform for the game designer with a dream and a robust lack of capital to approach the masses with their vision, and legions of fans are eager to fork over cash and become early adopters and investors. This past year saw $233 million raised by creators of tabletop games and accessories on the platform, up 32 percent from the $176.3 million funded in 2019. While video games have only seen modest funding on the Kickstarter platform — $22.9 million in 2020 — as the high development costs and difficult chance of success have made them a shadow of the tabletop genre by comparison. In 2015, successful video game campaigns hauled in $41.5 million on Kickstarter, nearly half the $84.6 million raised by tabletops.
The Federal Communications Commission’s auction of wireless licenses is wildly outpacing expectations, with $69.8 billion in sales after three weeks of bidding. The spectrum on the auction block will be necessary to give carriers the bandwidth to roll out 5G coverage in a significant way, and the magnitude of the bids seems to indicate that multiple companies are squabbling over the more valuable rights. The radio frequencies being auctioned are between 3.7 and 4 gigahertz, a range that is well-suited for 5G.
What was poised to be the big holiday season video game of 2020, Cyberpunk 2077 was released with a number of serious issues related to gameplay features, with the game experience so bugged on some systems that Sony has pulled the title from the PlayStation store and Microsoft is offering refunds. The game moved 13 million copies as of December 20 after factoring in refunds, significantly lower than the 16.4 million that analysts on average projected selling. MBank SA estimated the number of Cyberpunk 2077 refunds at 3 million so far, but projected sales of the game to hit 14.5 million by the end of the year and 30.5 million by the end of next.
Toyota plans to roll out an ultra-compact electric vehicle that can go 100 kilometers on a single charge and costs about $16,000. It will have two seats, and the initial target of 100 vehicles for business clients and local governments will be low, but tailored in line with a Japanese government plan to make all new vehicles fully electric or hybrid by the middle of the 2030s. It’s also a big move for Toyota, which was obviously early to hybrid technology but has been cautious about EVs so far. Sales to the general public are expected after 2022, and at the $15,500 to $16,400 (excluding subsidies) price point.
Thanks so much for reading Numlock! I hope you enjoyed it this year. Have a great Christmas, holiday season and a happy New Year. As always, a huge thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible, you’ll be getting the special AMA edition on January 2.
See you in January, we’re gonna make it.
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