Weekly News Roundup (23 June 2013)

Take the Xbox 360, go back 359 steps to get the Xbox One, but then do a 180, and you get the new Xbox, same as the old Xbox. Kudos to Microsoft for taking the risk in the first place, and then sense to reverse everything. I know some will say that going back to the old and safe is a coward’s way out, but for a company as big as Microsoft where the wheels turn very slowly indeed, I’m surprised they were able to reverse course as quickly and as decisively as they did. Anyway, more on this later, as we start this WNR with the usual copyright news first.

CopyrightThe White House was in full self-praise mode this week as the Obama  administration’s Copyright Czar released the 2013 Joint strategic Plan On Intellectual Property Enforcement (IPEC) report.

The Pirate Bay 3D Ship Model

3D printing piracy is on the White House’s hit list

The report highlighted the various controversial achievements the administration has made on the issue of IP enforcement, including the controversial Operation In Our Sites (which managed to seize a bunch of innocent domains by circumventing due process) and the controversial Megaupload raid (which is looking increasingly fishy as time goes on), and also welcomed new industry-led initiatives such as the controversial ISP six-strikes program and urged for more of the same.

Focusing not only on the past and present, the report also looked into the future and pointed out the areas in which new controversial measures can be deployed. Cloud computing, mobile computing, data storage and especially 3D printing were all singled out as areas that might need an urgent dose of anti-innovation.

3D printing is especially interesting due to the recent news involving the administration’s crackdown on 3D printable guns. Conservative and pro-gun groups were not impressed, as expected, but I wonder what their reactions would have been if people had been able to download and print copyrighted gun designs from the likes of Ruger, Remington and Smith & Wesson? Copyright and protecting the interests of gun makers might just out-trump their believe in the right to bear arms.

High Definition

Blu-ray revenue for 2012 was up 10%, with an even bigger increase in unit sales as the average price of Blu-ray titles dropped to just under $20, a new report shows.

Blu-ray sales and digital delivery helped to offset declines in DVD sales, and helped to produce a 0.25% rise in home entertainment spending in 2012. It doesn’t sound like much, but this was the first time in seven years that an increase, any increase, was recorded.

Reading the report, I also found that I’m in the top 10% of disc buyers, who spent on average $527 on movies in 2012. I spent nearly this much just on Amazon’s Black Friday sales last year, I think.

For more Blu-ray sales stats, have a look at my analysis from a few weeks ago, which indicated a 10% increase in average weekly revenue in the past year, so not too far off.

Gaming

Who says complaining on the Internet doesn’t work? Complaining got iTunes (and the music industry) to remove DRM. Complaining got SimCity buyers a free game that was actually playable and better than SimCity. And this week, complaining got Microsoft to turn the Xbox One into the Xbox 180, completely reversing the controversial DRM changes previously introduced.

Xbox One disc based games will now work in exactly the same fashion as Xbox 360 games (and PS4 games). No more once-every-24 hours Internet connection requirements, no more used game trading restrictions – status quo here we come! The downside of the reversal is that game discs will again be needed every time you play a game, which is a shame.

Xbox One Forza 5

It’s back to the future with the Xbox One – DRM will now be exactly the same as the Xbox 360 after Microsoft backs down

And almost lost in the good news, Microsoft is finally getting rid of regional restrictions, so no more PAL/NTSC nonsense when buying games overseas.

So does this make the Xbox One a contender again? Well to be honest, it always was. But the PS4′s $100 cheaper price tag and the fact that not everyone wants a Kinect, means the advantage is still with the PS4. Just not as big as it was last week. Now that the DRM distraction is over, Microsoft can concentrate on convincing gamers why the Xbox One is better than the PS4, how the built-in Kinect can allow for experiences that won’t be available on the PS4, and the benefits of having a system designed as a centerpiece of your home entertainment needs. Still a steep mountain to climb for Microsoft, but at least it’s no longer Mount Everest. Please vote in our post-Microsoft-DRM-backdown poll here to let me know if you’ve changed your mind on the Xbox One.

And I know people can get carried away with good news like this, but please do not refer to the PS4 or the Xbox One as having “no DRM”. I’ve already seen one article that describes the Xbox One policy change as “no more DRM”, and that’s just not true. There’s always been DRM on game consoles – it’s why you need to insert the disc to play the game even if you’ve already installed the game to your HDD – and they will most likely always be there. For the PS4 and Xbox One to be truly DRM free for gaming, discs should not be required after the initial install, there shouldn’t be any need for online checks, and there should be unlimited installs per disc (as to facilitate sharing, trading, etc…). There’s a better chance of a Halo game for the PS4, or a Uncharted game for the Xbox One, than this DRM-free thing happening unfortunately.

Still, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in that the Xbox One will now basically be the same as the PS4. Some of the changes were actually good ideas (no more discs, and for the first time, having a system that allows for digital goods to be traded/sold …), but the actual implementation and the PR was just horrible. Had Microsoft stuck to their guns, it would have either revolutionized console gaming, or it would have been the worst fail in the history of gaming. Either of which would have been extremely interesting for someone who writes about these kind of things. Oh well.

And before I move on, I thought this was funny too.

Going back to the previous generation, there are reports that the latest PS3 firmware version 4.45 is bricking consoles. Or rather, the XMB will refuse to show up after the update on selected PS3 models. Sony are aware of the problem, but have yet to release a fix. They’ve temporarily pulled the firmware from the servers, but if for some reason you get prompted for 4.45 update, best to skip it if you want to be completely safe.

Those with already bricked consoles will have to wait for a fix (the latest is that Sony plans to release the fix next Thursday, the 27th), hopefully one that can be done over the Internet via a new update.

Xbox 360 Super Slim

The new Xbox 360 matches the design of the Xbox One

The May NPD report was also out this week. With only Microsoft providing hardware data, and not their usual “percentage of total console sales” figure, not much can be really drawn from the 114,000 Xbox 360′s that were sold in May. Other than the fact that 114,000 really isn’t a very big number at all. For comparison’s sake, 160,000 Xbox 360′s were sold in May 2012.

Even with the low number, the Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 and, the Wii and the Wii U in May in the US. No wonder the other companies no longer release solid hardware numbers.

Lost in the excitement of the Xbox One DRM fail was the news that a new Xbox 360 console, dubbed “Xbox 360 Super Slim” (despite not being any slimmer or smaller than the current Xbox 360), has been released. It’s designed like a baby version of the Xbox One, and could form part of Microsoft’s strategy to turn the 360 into their budget console (which may also be pluggable into the Xbox One’s HDMI input port for pseudo backwards compatibility).

Microsoft will hope the new Xbox 360, even though it doesn’t carry a lower price, will spur sales a bit.

And that’s another week done and dusted. See you next week.

 


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