Weekly News Roundup (5 April 2009)

Sorry for this somewhat late edition of the WNR. This daylight savings thing has me all confused, and despite the clocks going forward, I end up doing things later than before. The “2008 Game of the Year Poll” has been closed, and the results are in. My game of the decade, Fallout 3, did not win, but still came third which is pretty good for a game that doesn’t appeal to everyone’s tastes. Call of Duty: World at War won, followed by GTA IV – looks more like “best sellers of 2008”, rather than “best games of 2008” to me. Also, April Fools occurred during the week so chances are, some of the news you read below will have been made up. That in itself is not strange, because there’s made up news pretty much every week, but the only difference is that the made up stories this week have been done in the name of comedy, rather than about getting hits to your website.   


Let’s get on with the copyright news because it’s already 8 pm, or 6pm, or something in between, I don’t know anymore thanks to the daylight savings (which has either ended or started, I don’t know either).

Sweden has passed new Internet copyright laws and Internet traffic fell dramatically as a result. I’m surprised at the results to be honest, because this would suggest a huge majority of Swedish users are pirates, which goes against what I’ve read (and I think posted here) recently. However, there are already ways to ensure the authorities cannot track your usage, by using encryption, and so the more enterprising users are already downloading free games and movies without the eyes of the law prying into their activities. A new generation of smarter, faster, and more efficient pirates, is what this will breed. 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is already available to download, but who is to blame?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is already available to download illegally, but who is to blame?

And then we had the big news of the new X-Men movie being leaked online a whole month before the official release date. I’m sure the Internet and Internet users will get all the blame, but really, how would they get access to an early unfinished print of the movie without some insider doing all the hard work? The Internet is responsible to distributing this movie in a timely and efficient fashion, as that’s what it is designed for, but it is the people who leak the movie that are the very people the MPAA should be going after, not the people who put them online or download them. Before the Internet, the leaked print would have been distributed on bootlegged VHS or DVD, or even in the original film containers – less widespread, but still damaging. Don’t blame the Internet for being good at what it is designed for, is all I’m saying.  

And it’s not only the Internet that’s getting blamed, but also legitimate Internet companies, such as Yahoo and Google. News Corp’s Murdoch, a kingpin of traditional media, is blaming Yahoo and Google for being thieves when it comes to copyright. New media, such as Google’s YouTube, are bringing information and content to people in new ways which are harder to control compared to traditional media, and so it’s only natural for TV networks or movie studios to be afraid. There is maybe less money to be made, but then again, the audience has increased too. But the writing is on the wall for traditional media, and this includes perhaps newspapers, radio, as well as TV, and they will not be able to compete against the “what you want, when you want it” way that the Internet works. But what the Internet has is quantity and not necessarily quality, and this is perhaps an area that traditional media can expand into – to provide quality Internet content that you would want to pay for (or put up with ads). A high quality version of YouTube with the same quality guidelines and editing as your average TV network, as opposed to one that allows any idiot to post their Rickroll’s.  The same with newspapers, which needs to go back to offering quality that’s so good that people will want to subscribe and pay for it (along with the high quality services that you normally wouldn’t expect from a blog, for example). Still, it’s a challenge for the traditional media, and those unwiling or unable to change will be the losers. 

High Definition

Onto high-def news, it’s a somewhat quiet week. The only major news, and it was a bit of a shock, so much so that I still think it’s an April Fools joke, was that Netflix will increase Blu-ray rental prices by as much as $8 per month.

NetFlix Blu-ray rental prices increased

NetFlix Blu-ray rental prices increased

Netflix has various subscription packages allowing you to have X number of discs rented at any one time. To upgrade one of these packages to include Blu-ray means you used to have to pay an extra $1 per month, regardless of what package you’ve chosen. But now, the extra Blu-ray surcharge is has been increased and it goes up depending on which package you’ve chosen. For their most expensive package, which allows 8 discs to be rented out at any time, you’ll need to pay an extra $8 to allow Blu-ray titles to be rented, which works out to be about an 16% increase to the monthly fee. That in itself is okay, except many of the Blu-ray discs you rent from Netflix will be so scratched, that they won’t be playable. Or you end up waiting months on end for a title to be sent out to you because so few of each title are available. Of course, the increase in fees will help in both regards, but other online rental firms aren’t charging more for Blu-ray, and I don’t think this will help Netflix (or Blu-ray).

Which is all reason why I still think it’s an April Fools joke. But then again,  the Sony PlayStation price drop story also seemed like an April Fools, but it turned out to be sadly true, which brings us to …


Gaming news – There was rumour going around early last week that Sony was going to make a global announcement in regards to the PS3. Of course, Sony denied that such an announcement was going to occur, but that’s expected and it did not rule out a PS3 announcement. And of course, if it is a major PS3 announcement, then it has to be about a price drop, right?

Sony has dropped PS2 prices, but will this help it sell better against the Wii?

Sony has dropped PS2 prices, but will this help it sell better against the Wii?

But then Sony scheduled a press conference and more reliable sources said that, yes, it would be about the PlayStation game console. Everybody got excited, waited for the announcement, and yes, it was a price drop. It was just for the wrong PlayStation game console. That’s right, Sony has dropped PS2 prices to $99 (although many retailers were already selling at or below this price). The reasoning behind this was that it would make the PS2 competitive with the Wii. The past NPD monthly game console sales reports show that the PS2 is on its last legs, and down 60% compared to the same time last year. Will this price drop help it out?

Maybe, but the real question is why would you want to help out the PS2 at this stage of its life cycle? Sony seems to think that the only reason the Wii is doing well is because it’s cheap. That’s not even remotely true. The Wii is now the second most expensive console on the market (the Xbox 360 Arcade is the cheapest), and it is on the only console not to have had a price drop or a hardware upgrade since release. People like the Wii because it’s fun and it has games that bring enjoyment to a wider range of people, not just hardcore gamers. The PS2 cannot offer this. Now Sony might introduce a Wii-mote like controller for the PS2, but if they can do this and not get sued by Nintendo, then why can’t they do it for the PS3, which already has a motion sensitive controller? And why bring attention to a dying platform, when you’ve got a new platform that could die if not given enough attention? The cost of dropping PS2 prices could have been used to give a small price drop to the PS3, in conjunction with offering a budget version of the PS3 with a smaller HDD or less non essential feature (no built-in wireless, for example). Or just bite the bullet and offer a big price drop to the PS3, take the temporary financial hit, but reap the rewards of better game sales in the future. But people, including myself, has said all this  before time and time again and all we get is a PS2 price drop.  

Which is why I still think it’s an April Fools joke, and a cruel one at that.

The only PS3 news was that firmware 2.7 being released. Sony is at least keeping its promise to add more and more features to the PS3 through software updates. This is a good idea, but it’s not unique since Nintendo and Microsoft, both to a lesser extent, have been doing the same through channel and dashboard updates. And it can’t last forever, because the hardware has limitations and if Microsoft releases the Xbox 720 with more powerful hardware, then Sony will have to abandon the PS3 and go make the PS4, because superior software can only do so much to catch up to  superior hardware.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii, in 720p

Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii, in 720p

Nintendo could very well release an HD version of the Wii too, let not forget. But somebody has beaten them to it, although it may rest in a legal gray area. There is a Wii emulator out now that can run games at 720p, and it doesn’t use upscaling, rather, it renders the game using the emulator’s 3D engine at this higher resolution. And it works well and can make existing Wii games look very good indeed (videos). The Wii controller can already be used on the PC if you have a Bluetooth adapter, and so this could mean a potential way to play Wii games without even having a Wii game console. Although at the moment, you need a monster PC just to get average framerates. In any case, I’m not sure Nintendo will be too happy about this development, but it may show that people do want Wii in HD and maybe Nintendo can come up with something official on this front.

Alright, that’s it for this week. It’s already either 11pm or 9pm or 10pm, so it’s late anyway. See you next week.


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