Weekly News Roundup (30 September 2007)

Once again, I’ll go through all the news items that have gone through the Digital Digest website and forum for this week.

Starting with copyright related news again, some DRM advocates are worried that there might be a consumer backlash towards DRM (you don’t say!). I mean it’s not like there was a DRM related revolt on Digg earlier this year or anything, and I’m sure Apple/EMI and Amazon launching DRM-free music was just a coincidence, and in no way related to a consumer backlash. Torrent site Demonoid has been shut down by the Canadian RIA. Torrent sites usually only link to torrent files, and not the actual copyrighted content, but in the greater scheme of things, providing any assistance to copyright infringement is going to be risky, whether they host the actual file or not. I would like to see some separation between torrent sites and legitimate sites like Google Video, who are under renewed pressure this week over users uploaded pirated content – the main aim of torrent sites is to offer pirated content, whereas Google Video and other video sharing sites have pirated content because they cannot control their numerous users. Then again, there are video sharing sites that advertise free movies and encourage users to upload them, so they again should be treated differently. And then there is “Movie Night” on school campuses. Showing movies in common rooms or public areas is technically “broadcasting” and is against the terms of the copyright agreement, but how much does that really hurt the movie studios, so much so that lawsuits need to be launched? What’s next, not being showing to watch movies with people other than your immediate family?

Onto gaming news. Sony says that it can catch up to the Xbox 360 by March next year. I would say that if they don’t at least achieve this, then the PS3 is in serious trouble. The PS3 is the cheapest Blu-ray player around, and actually represents good value if you want next-gen gaming + HD movie playback, but it still hasn’t been able to beat the Xbox 360 + HD DVD add-on drive in sales since launch. Add to that the Xbox 360’s better range of games and exclusives, it’s not looking great for the PS3 compared to how well the PS2 did at this stage of its release. Can Sony claim a huge market share like it did with the PS2? I don’t think so and not being able to hold on to the market the PS2 created means a defeat for Sony no matter which way you look at it. Sony will hope that’s it’s new slim PSP bundle will at least claim a bigger market share in the handheld gaming market, a market dominated by Nintendo for some time now. But the big news of the week has been the launch of Halo 3. Even the news of scratched discs didn’t slow down sales, with Halo 3 breaking all gaming and even movie box office records on the first day. When video games start making more money than big Hollywood blockbusters like Spider-Man 3, something has changed in the way entertainment is delivered. It’s no wonder then that there has been more and more games to movie conversion, rather than the reverse, lately (Hitman the movie is that one I’m waiting for).

In HD news, it seems site like us are either not doing our jobs, or people are not visiting our sites (the most likely explanation, and I’m sure that the 10 people that read this blog will agree with me here). Consumers just don’t seem to understand HD with only 11% feeling they understand HD completely, and even HDTV owners don’t seem to understand. The situation is not just limited to the US either, with Australian consumers faring even worse. It’s a shame, because HD really is quite wonderful … people who have enjoyed proper HD will never want to go back to standard definition. And if you’ve already jumped on the HD movie bandwagon (in particularly, the HD DVD one), then you can enjoy state of the art interactive features from future titles such as Shrek the Third, in addition to the superb video and audio quality. But speaking of interactive features, Blu-ray is still playing a game of catch-up, and consumers will be the victim once again (no wonder they are confused about HD). As I’ve blogged previously, Blu-ray has really screwed the pooch on the issue of hardware standards, and now Blu-ray owners may need to replace their less than a year old Blu-ray player because it doesn’t have all the required features for future Blu-ray movies. Us HD DVD owners are feeling pretty smug about it all because the HD DVD standard has been finalized from day one and includes all the advanced interactive features that Blu-ray owners might not be seeing until next year. And did I mention that HD DVD is region-free? I know I shouldn’t go on and on about region-free, but it really is wonderful to have it. There’s not a lot of HD DVD movies on sale in Australia (and the ones on sale are too expensive), but because of the region-free status, I can import movies from the US or UK, usually at a lower price and faster release date. Unlike DVDs, with the NTSC/PAL difference, HD DVDs don’t have this difference so the US version is either likely to be identical, or in most cases, superior to the local release. Studios and local distributors may not like it, but it’s partly their fault isn’t it for not releasing identical versions in a timely manner. My US import to my local purchase ratio is at 3:1 at the moment.

And that’s all folks for this week. See you next week.


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