Weekly News Roundup (28 December 2008)

Welcome to the last ever Weekly News Roundup.

For 2008, that is. And predictably, there was hardly any news this week. There was the story of the RIAA changing tactics in their fight against piracy. The Pirate Party in Sweden is gaining support, now surpassing the Green Party in membership. And that’s pretty much it for copyright news.

Hardly any Blu-ray news either, as people are still recovering from TDK fever. The only thing slightly related was the cost of making PS3s dropping, but still higher than the retail price. Sony are still losing money on each PS3 sold, so no wonder they’re not offering any price cuts. And video streaming is coming to the Wii, which means all current generation consoles now have video streaming capabilities, which suggest online based video delivery is here to stay.

And that was the week in news, oh well. So instead of looking at the week’s news, I thought it would be appropriate to do a quick yearly roundup. A proper annual review would takes 20 pages, so I’ll just quickly do the news items that I can still remember, which is not much.

Copyright2008 was a year in which lawsuits were filled left and right, by the RIAA, MPAA and their legion of evildoers across the globe. TorrentSpy was shut down, many others followed, but piracy rates still increased. 

Consumers finally said no to DRM in 2008

Consumers finally said no to DRM in 2008

2008 is also the year that DRM died. Unfortunately, it was limited to the music arena, but it’s still a good sign for the future. DRM still reigns supreme in video and gaming, but on the PC gaming front, the voices of discontent are now being heard, all thanks to EA’s mangling of Spore’s DRM. No PC game gets released these days without a debate on DRM, and I think that’s a healthy development and hopefully, 2009 will be the year DRM died in gaming as well.

At the end, the RIAA decided to change tactics and go after ISPs. It happened in Australia as well, with AFACT suing ISP giant iiNet. iiNet has promised to fight the charges, and we might see what happens in 2009. 

In politics, the George W. Bush White House, firmly on the side of the RIAA/MPAA, established a new Copyright Czar position which will make the government do the dirty work of the copyright industry. Barack Obama was elected President, and he promises a different approach to fighting piracy, but we will have to wait and see if he delivers on the promise. 

High DefinitionIn High Definition, a lot happened in 2008. The year started with a bang, with Warner Bros. ditching HD DVD and going Blu-ray exclusive. Wal-Mart followed, and a string of other companies too, and in February, Toshiba folded and abandoned HD DVD.



What followed was a series of fire sales, some of which are still going on, in which yours truly increased his high definition movie collection 15 fold for less money than a Blu-ray player (current pricing). Blu-ray was expected to completely overwhelmed the market, but nothing materialised, at least not what studios were expecting. Blu-ray’s 6% share in March (when HD DVDs were still being released) did not grow at all for the next 6 months. Then came Iron Man, and price cuts to hardware, and Blu-ray was gaining momentum again. The Dark Knight made sure 2008 was a good, but not brilliant, year for Blu-ray, with market share closer to 10%.

Blu-ray standalone prices tumbled towards the end of the year, coming close to HD DVD levels just before it folded, with some deals making them even cheaper than HD DVD players after HD DVD folded. The “players are too expensive” excuse can’t really be used anymore, but people are still not buying players in droves, and with slower PS3 sales, there’s still not nearly enough players in people’s homes. 2009 will be the year of Blu-ray, as the execs now say – we’ll have to wait and see.  

But time may be running out because online video distribution made huge strides in 2008. All three current generation consoles, the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3, now support some form of online video rental/streaming. There are more than 33 million of these consoles in the US alone.  Netflix, Blockbusters, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Apple, Amazon … are all now doing online video streaming, most of them with their own hardware players as well. If you ask anyone in the industry, they’ll tell you that online video is the next big thing in home video, but until bandwidth increases and its prices drop, we might still have a while to wait before HD video streaming becomes a reality. H.264 has firmly established itself as the video format of choice, and with the H.264 based DivX 7 coming next month, H.264 is truly becoming a mainstream video format and HD streaming using the highly efficient H.264 codec will make bandwidth requirements slightly less demanding. 

GamingAnd finally in gaming, 2008 was a great year for the gaming industry. There were so many hit titles, and my NPD yearly roundup to be published next month will have more details. GTA IV, Gears of War 2, Madden NFL 09, Super Smash Bros. Brawl – all titles that sold more than 1 million copies in the first month of release. The good news for Microsoft was that 3 of these 4 titles were Xbox 360 ones (the other one being for the Wii). The expected PS3 hits like LittleBigPlanet and MGS4 did not really do much for the console, while any old game on the Xbox 360 sold better. The Wii’s usual suspects, Wii Play, Mario Kart, and Wii Fit all helping it to stay number 2 in software sales. 

PS3: Losing momentum, losing sales, but not losing the high price tag

PS3: Losing momentum, losing sales, but not losing the high price tag

On the hardware front, the PS3 started with a bang, outselling the Xbox 360 for the first, and second, times in the first 3 month. Then a couple of months where both consoles were neck and neck, the Xbox 360 came back with a vengeance thanks to some smart price cuts and some hit game releases. But it was all a fight for (a distant) second place as far as Nintendo were concerned, as the Wii took top spot for 12 out of 12 months (we’re still awaiting December figures, but one can assume the Wii won by miles again). More than 2 million Wiis were sold in November alone.

The PS3 ended the year on a sour note (although the December figures might be better), with November of 2008 being a worth month than November of 2007, in terms of raw sales, which is not good news at all for a console that’s not supposed to have peaked yet. The lack of any price cuts, and with only a more expensive model being released for the holiday period, was what caused this. The high cost of making a PS3 is still hurting sales, but with the PS3 costs dropping, 2009 might be the year that the PS3 finally gets some prices cuts. And the good news is that the Xbox 360 can’t make any further drops, so it’s all set for PS3 making 2009 their year. 

So that was the year that was. If you listen to the marketing people, 2009 will be the year of Blu-ray, PS3, online video, H.264, and everything else in between. Nobody really knows what will happen, and I would dare make any predictions, but let’s just hope 2009 is a great year. Have a happy and safe holiday period, a Happy New Year and see you in 2009.


One Response to “Weekly News Roundup (28 December 2008)”

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