Weekly News Roundup (27 March 2016)
Can’t believe it’s Easter already, and here I am, absentmindedly thinking it’s still 2015 from time to time.
Quite a bit of news to go through before we probably encounter the Easter/post Easter lull, so let’s get on with it, shall we?
Well, it was unfortunate and probably predictable, as the Blu-ray edition of Star Wars: The Force Awaken, not due on store shelves until another week and a bit, has been ripped and uploaded online illegally. I say it’s predictable because, as one of the biggest movie releases ever (and possibly a record breaker for Blu-ray too), there was just no way this wasn’t going to get leaked early, especially considering how many people will have had access to the retail discs before the embargo date. While the official release date isn’t until April 5th, stores that plan on selling the disc will most likely already have received stock, stock that has been made and packaged long before – all the steps on this production and distribution line will be vulnerable to leaks, and for a release this big, it would have been amazing if there wasn’t a pre-release leak.
With that said, will it really affect sales? Probably not. This is one of the biggest movies ever, and true fans will not be sated until they get their (my) hands on the retail Blu-ray package, the existence of an illegal pirated download is not relevant (we might still download it though) – they (I) would have pre-ordered their copy months in advance anyway, and they won’t be cancelling it for the rip. There might be a few lost sales here and there, but these people were never really that serious about buying the disc anyway, and it’s not going to make a huge dent on the predicted huge sales numbers.
Speaking of Blu-ray sales, the Blu-ray sales stats I published this week contains the first set of numbers for Ultra HD Blu-ray, and there are both good and bad news for the new 4K format.
The Peanuts Movie is one of the first new releases that happens to be released simultaneously on Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray, and long story short (actually, story isn’t that long anyway), not many UHD copies were sold at all. UHD discs for this movie were only 0.27% of total disc sales (which includes standard Blu-ray and DVD), or just under 0.5% of total Blu-ray sales (in other words, only one UHD copy was sold for every 203 standard Blu-ray copies, or 166 DVD copies).
Okay, perhaps this wasn’t the best movie to show off the UHD format, and according to disc buyers, it was ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ that was the UHD demo disc of choice. It had a much more respectable UHD sales share of 6.19% (so one UHD copy for every 6 Blu-ray copies sold, or every 8 DVDs).
It’s still early days, but it looks like its going to take some time before UHD Blu-ray becomes a major factor in disc sales.
What might help accelerate UHD Blu-ray’s adoption would be if the PS4 was upgraded to support it – and this might actually happen, if you believe the rumours. Apparently, game developers are already being briefed on a new mode of the PS4 that will support 4K gaming (the current PS4 only supports 4K for images and video files), which necessitates the use of a new GPU. If such a major hardware change is to occur, then chances are, Sony might use the opportunity to also upgrade the optical drive in the PS4 to support Ultra HD Blu-ray. It will make the new PS4, dubbed PS4.5 (or PS4K, as I’ve read about it in some quarters), more expensive, but this “premium” PS4 would not be aimed at the budget conscious anyway.
I think it makes good sense for Sony to make this move, and if they do, it would also fill the rather obvious looking gap in Sony’s Blu-ray player line-up – the company does not even have any current plans to release a Ultra HD Blu-ray player at all!
So while Sony (and Microsoft) are all thinking about making their flagship consoles better, Nintendo might be trying to abandon it altogether in 2016. Reports, which was later somewhat weakly refuted by Nintendo, suggests the Japanese company is going to cut their losses and stop production of the Wii U in 2016. The PS4 has sold three times many units globally than the Wii U despite being released a whole year later, and the situation is not going to get any better. But with Nintendo’s next console not coming out until 2017, it’s extremely unlikely the company will end Wii U production before then – not unless they bring up the release date of the NX to 2016.
It’s actually not too difficult to see what went wrong with the Wii U. It wasn’t powerful enough compared to the other current generation consoles, it wasn’t cheap enough either thanks to the price war between Microsoft and Sony. And while it had a good stable of first party games, there were some obvious absentees (Zelda!), and third party support was lacking. It was probably lacking because the Wii U failed to bring anything really innovative to gaming unlike the Wii – the tablet controller is good, but is often underutilised, even by first party games – and third party developers just weren’t excited about what the Wii U brought to gaming (that’s not to say that the PS4 and Xbox One were innovative, they weren’t, but they didn’t have to be because they were superior in almost every other way).
So it’s a bit early to eulogise the Wii U, but let’s just hope Nintendo has learned their lessons and give us something that will either be revolutionarily different and/or powerful enough to make Sony and Microsoft look over their shoulders with nervousness. Plus better launch games (Zelda!)
Okay folks, that’s it for this week. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of the WNR, Happy Easter, and see you next week.