Weekly News Roundup (3 August 2008)

It’s that time of the week again when I go through all the news items of relevance in the week, or at least all the relevant news items that caught my eye, or perhaps more precisely, the interesting news items that I managed to find, but even more accurate, the interesting news items that I managed not to miss or ignore as I was preoccupied with other things like sleeping and watching TV. WNR: It’s the only thing you need to read every week! (especially if you don’t mind missing a few importance pieces of news here and there)

CopyrightLet’s start with the copyright news that I didn’t manage to miss. The MPAA is trying to play the nice guy by offering links to legal movie downloads. The ones that they insist on infesting with DRM? At the very same time, the “bad cop” division of the MPAA is cracking down harder on movie streaming sites, with two smaller sites being targeted. Two much bigger sites are also targetted by Italian publisher Mediaset, Google and YouTube. These companies should really get together and discuss an unified strategy on who to sue: big sites, small sites or individuals. Porn companies, ever the pragmatist, have decided against going after individuals and will target P2P sites instead.

Are anti-piracy measures responsible for the movie's success?

Are anti-piracy measures responsible for the movie's success?

But the question remains whether these lawsuits and other measures are working. Are people downloading less illegal content these days? The Dark Knight had it’s own 6 month intensive anti-piracy strategy. The result? 38 hours before the first illegal copy was found on the net. Is that a success? Warner Brothers thinks so. I think the success of the movie had more to do with the quality of the movie, than whether there were downloads or not in the first 38 hours. Do you see TDK dropping heavily down the charts now that downloads are available and in great demand? Nope, neither do I. A lot of these downloads are from college students with fast/free Internet access at dorms and such. Which is why the powers that be have singled them out and the new US college funding bills has anti-P2P provisions tacked onto it. Just how much money did it cost the RIAA/MPAA to get something like this done, I wonder.

This little thing is all you need to play pirated DS games

This little thing is responsible for a lot of piracy

Gaming piracy is another major problem as perceived by the industry. I do agree that Nintendo DS piracy is far too common for Nintendo not to be concerned, although it has helped them take the market leadership position which is worth a hell of a lot more than revenue lost through piracy. But Nintendo will act and they will try to prevent devices like the R4DS memory cards from being manufactured to stop piracy. You can’t blame them, of course, but you must question the timing a bit: why has it taken them to long to act (after 4 generations of these memory cards have already been released). Perhaps even they realise that it helps more than it hinders, but now that they’re on top, they don’t need or want piracy anymore.

High DefinitionOnto HD news that I didn’t sleep through this week, China is ready to unveil it’s own version of HD, based on existing HD DVD technology but without the royalties, and it will battle Blu-ray for the Chinese market. China is large enough to basically ignore global markets if it wanted to, and so Blu-ray could still be *the* HD format elsewhere, and have absolutely no presence in China if the Chinese insists on it. There’s been some news about Blu-ray struggling, due to a poll or some other. It’s funny, because last week I was reading that Blu-ray was a hit and I’m sure I’ll be reading about it next week too. I trust the sales stats only, and Blu-ray sales have been steadily quite low compared to DVDs. Since I started tracking and posting the weekly sales stats on June 1st, the percentage has hovered around the 6 to 7% range. Not quite the 50% that Sony claim they will have by the end of the year. But remember, the most optimistic predictions say that Blu-ray will only finally get to 51%, and overtake DVD sales, in 2012. And with no competitor in the high density optical disc arena, Blu-ray has all the time it needs.

LG's Blu-ray and Netflix Player

LG's Blu-ray and Netflix Player

And if you are a Netflix subscriber, than you’ll now have to pay a little bit extra for Blu-ray rentals. A couple of dollars per month is nothing really (that’s what, like 5 minutes worth of driving around with today’s petrol prices?). But it obviously hinders, rather than helps Blu-ray at this point. LG is coming out with a Blu-ray player that has Netflix streaming capabilities, and with the Xbox 360 also supporting Netflix streaming, that’s quite a bit of support for Netflix’s new service. I’ve been selling some Blu-ray movies on eBay under the username “dvdguy14”, and I think the interest in Blu-ray is still strong, but only if the price is right (which, after making a loss from the dozen movies I’ve sold so far, is a lesson I’ve learnt the hard way).

GamingAnd finally in gaming, Xbox Live may become free, as more and more games have multi-player modes that don’t required the paid Xbox Live Gold membership. Microsoft’s response to Sony’s PlayStation Home? Perhaps. The new Xbox 360 dashboard is another item that will help to find PS Home, and you can already gain access to the leaked version of the updated dashboard. Another strategy Microsoft has against the rising popularity of the PS3 is to cut prices, this time to the Arcade model as well, which will place it actually below the price of a Wii. You do have to wonder about Microsoft’s strategy, because price cuts can’t go on forever.

ID’s John Carmack recently said a few things which seem to suggest he now prefers the PS3, including some comments about Blu-ray helping to reduce compression related quality problems for an upcoming game (Rage). John D. Carmack (I believe the D stands for Doom – the game he’s best known for), has now clarified his comments which basically boils down the same things many people have been saying forever, that the Xbox 360 is easier to develop for, the PS3 has more power but you need to work hard for it (as most of the advantages the PS3 has over the 360 are “in theory”, and not practically tested yet). I’m still not convinced by Blu-ray’s usefulness in this generation of gaming, because games that require 50 GB of storage will be a pain in the neck in terms of loading – both the 360 and PS3 are very much limited in terms of memory, much more so than your average PC from even a year ago, so how can they handle 50 GB of textures without causing serious playback problems? For A/V storage, including in-game movies/audio, then yes, Blu-ray is useful. Much like how in the early days of CD-ROM, most of the games were rather crappy FMV games (Rebel Assault aside, most of them were 3/10 stuff).

EA has had to apologise to everybody recently

EA has had to apologise to everybody recently

There’s been some EA news recently too. They first had to apologise for dropping the ball on the Red Alert 3 PS3 port, and had to do the rather outrageous act of cancelling it altogether. Then they had to apologise again for concentrating too much on the PS3 and 360 (heh @ the PS3 comment), and not investing enough on the Wii. They are now trying to win back PS3 fans by providing some exclusive content for PS3 owners on some of their upcoming games. If so, then an apology to 360 fans seems to be on the cards from the gaming giant. During all this commotion, the PS3 had a new firmware update to fix some audio problems.

As for the Wii, Nintendo says the Wii’s successor is already in the works for when Wii sales start to decline. Hopefully when that happens, the Wii will get a price drop too and it will no longer force people to fake their own kidnapping in order to get theirparents to pay for a Wii.

Oh looky, we’re at the end of another WNR. It’s been fun folks, it really has, and I look forward to providing you with more news that I bothered to read throughout the week at the same time. And to follow up on last week’s end notes, I did go and see The Dark Knight. Boy was that a long movie. It was a pretty good movie, and given that I had high expectations, I still wasn’t disappointed. Not a 9.2 out of 10 as IMDb users puts it, but a solid 8.5 no doubt. Best Batman movie and best comic book adaptation, that’s for sure. Go and see it at the cinema or grab it on Blu-ray/DVD, it’s worth the money.


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