Weekly News Roundup (23 November 2008)

A relatively quiet week for news, and not just because I’ve been playing Fallout 3. Honest. I did manage to get the October NPD analysis done, which incidentally was before I started playing Fallout 3. Just a coincidence, I suspect. Okay, let’s not waste any time, I’ve got some “stuff” I need to do later on. 

CopyrightIn copyright news, the MPAA led coalition are now targeting ISPs around the world, and Australia is the latest victim, with movie companies suing one of Australia’s largest ISPs, iiNet. I am a former customer of iiNet, but all Net users in Australia should be worried at this development, because if the movie companies win in court, then all other ISPs will become targets too. I just hope iiNet can win this one, because you can’t tell me that ISPs are now responsible for the Internet usages of their customers, and that they, as private companies, have the right to monitor private communications for signs of impropriety.

Can you spot the pirated Blu-ray?

Can you spot the pirated Blu-ray?

While the studios are fighting the ISPs, the real pirates in China are now able to pirate Blu-ray movies by converting the movies to another format, such as AVCHD. If Blu-ray media was actually cheap enough, then they would have just made 1:1 copies, but as such, Blu-ray recorder’s slow uptake is helping to fight piracy for the time being. Just goes to show that with all the effort and money spent trying to protect Blu-ray from the pirates, it didn’t take very long for these resourceful people to find a way. The news has the BDA scrambling, and as you’ll note later on in the HD news section, they are launching Blu-ray in China ASAP.

And while they’re usually on the other end of lawsuits, this time, Sony has lost a patent infringement case for its PSP handheld console and have been ordered to pay $18.5 million in damages. There are some very innovative devices on the market today, and it’s perfectly reasonable to think that someone has probably already patented the idea some time back, but without the actual technical know-how or resources to produce the devices. Expect DS, Wii, iPhone and all other devices to come under attack if Sony cannot successfully appeal this verdict.

High DefinitionOnto Blu-ray now, Sony execs are the latest to downgrade Blu-ray’s fortunes for 2008. They still expect Blu-ray to be a top seller this holiday period, but because the whole retail situation is extremely bad at the moment, being at the top of a very small mound does nothing really for the format.

Blu-ray sales not going as well as Sony, studios, had planned

Blu-ray sales not going as well as Sony, studios, had planned

This comes a few days after studios also downgraded the expected Blu-ray sales. Previously thought to reach $1 billion in sales, this figure has been slashed by up to 35%. And it’s not just Blu-rays, but DVD sales are also feeling the pinch from the economic meltdown. Most of the sales drop are in the higher priced new releases, which shouldn’t surprise anybody. Blu-ray is supposed to be the saviour of the steadily declining DVD sales, but they’ve marketed the thing as an even higher priced upgrade to DVD, and that’s just not helping. Of course, if they market it as a low or same cost alternative, then it means no extra profit (or a small loss, considering the higher manufacturing costs of Blu-ray), which defeats the purpose of having a new format in the first place. Stuck between a rock and a hard place probably best describe the situation concerning DVD and Blu-ray.

At least the retailers are still on Blu-ray’s side, and Wal-Mart will do their best to promote Blu-ray for this year’s Black Friday sales by selling a $128 Blu-ray player. It’s a good deal, even if the player in question won’t do everything the more expensive players will do. Hopefully, there will be some movie deals to go along with the cheap player.

And in a bid to fight off competition in China from Toshiba’s “China Blue High-Def” format, and to fight piracy, and possibly to try to lower prices a bit thanks to the economy of scale principle, Sony will launch Blu-ray officially in China. I would gather the reason they did not do so earlier was because of the fear of piracy, but now that Blu-ray piracy is already starting there (see above), there’s no harm now to launch a legal alternative.

And last week I talked about the HDMI con. This week, I’ll talk about the extended warranty con, another favourite product or service that salespeople like to push onto potential customers. I must admit that I fell prey to this one several times, and usually of my own doing without much of a push from the sales person. I guess to buy a false sense of peace of mind is probably worth the price for some people. Like myself.

GamingAnd in gaming news, Microsoft’s New Xbox Experience was launched in the week. I installed it, and it took a lot less time than I had imagined (compared Sony’s normal and buggy PS3 firmware updates, this one took no time and I’ve had no problems with it since, although I might be one of the lucky ones). The new interface is very nice, and the Mii rip-offs Avatars are a nice touch, possibly even better than Nintendo’s originally effort. The install to HDD option is great (no so great is my lack of HDD space), and games now play much quieter without the constant whirl of the DVD drive (and the numerous times when I’ve had the “faulty disc” problem as the drive overheats). If the Xbox 360 can come with a decent sized HDD, something like 500 GB, and then the full HDD install option might become essential. If they can also do something so that no disc checks are required (easy to do if they force you to connect to Live to authenticate your HDD install), then that would be perfect.

Fallout 3 on the PC is a Games for Windows title, and my favourite at the moment

Fallout 3 on the PC is a Games for Windows title, and my favourite at the moment

Also looking perfect for Microsoft is the fact that the Xbox 360 is selling games for myriad of publishers to establish itself as the platform of choice for publishers, at least according to the NPD figures. I’ve kept track of the monthly NPD numbers for a while now and it’s clear that the Xbox 360 is selling the most games. Most of the top selling monthly titles have been Xbox 360 games, and unlike the few times when a Wii title has stolen the spot, most of the games are third-party efforts. This is why publishers will want to publish on the Xbox 360, because they know they have a chance to have a number 1 title. Not so much on the Wii due to the strong first-party efforts by Nintendo, and no chance on the PS3 due to the relatively low hardware install base. Also being pushed at the moment is Microsoft’s Games for Windows platform, which basically brings Xbox Live to PC, along with things like Gamerpoints and achievements. Just press the “Home” button on your keyboard, and it brings up the PC equivalent of a dashboard, to chat with friends or check out your achievements. I’ve been using this feature with Fallout 3 on the PC, and it’s a pretty neat system that works flawlessly (not something I can say about the actual game, which is a crash-fest). Say what you will about achievements, but they do add a new dimension to playability and it’s no surprise that Sony saw fit to rip-off for their own PS3’s Trophies, which will now be mandatory for all games in 2009

Speaking of Fallout 3, I’ve got to go now. Got to get back to Megaton to have a bit or R&R, do some trading, before launching an all out attack on the Super Mutants (and their Centaur companions). See you next week.


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