Weekly News Roundup (24 April 2016)
Hello again! It has gotten unseasonably cold here in Melbourne, and it has given me just the motivation I need to make sure I write up this WNR as quickly as possible – so I can quickly finish, get under a blanket with a warm drink, and watch The Force Awakens again on Blu-ray. Oh yes!
But there’s just one obstacle to my nerdish plans – there’s actually quite a lot of news to go through this week. Oh no!
Starting with the copyright news as we have always done, Hollywood mogul Avi Lerner, the producer behind The Expendables franchise, has come out firing on all cylinders on what he perceives to be the lack of action to tackle online piracy. The target of his tirade? President Obama and Congress, for being too scared to take on Google.
Lerner is particularly angry about online piracy because he believes a pre-release leak of The Expendables 3 may have taken as much as $250 million away from the film’s actual $209 million global box office take. This means that according to Lerner, The Expendables 3 would have made $459 million at the box office without the pre-release leak. But the thing is that the previous film in the series, which was better received by critics, only made a combined total of $312 million (without any piracy intervention). To me, the third film’s $209 million makes sense given the movie’s poor reception, which according to the film’s star, may have more to do with ratings than downloads.
Most controversially, Lerner says that not only should people who help to pirate movies go to jail, even those that aren’t actively helping to stop piracy (like Google, I presume) should be punished in some way. So I’m guessing that removing 91 million links monthly and demoting piracy sites is apparently not considered to be “helping” by Lerner.
I’ve made it pretty clear I like The Force Awakens and enjoyed watching it on Blu-ray. It seems I wasn’t alone, as not content in breaking many box office records, the latest film in the Star Wars saga has also broken a few Blu-ray records. It helped Blu-ray sales better that of DVD’s for the first time ever (59% of disc sales belong to Blu-ray for the week in which The Force Awakens was released – the previous record was 48%), and an astonishing 82% of buyers chose to buy the Blu-ray edition of the film over the DVD-only edition (it’s normally under 70% for most new releases).
Some will note that the DVD-only edition was a bare bones edition without any special features, and that the Blu-ray edition does include the DVD edition of the film (in such a combo retail package, these sales count towards Blu-ray), but these records still took a long time to be broken. Note that the most successful Blu-ray of all time is another Disney title, ‘Frozen’ – could The Force Awakens break one more record?
Also interesting to note is that Disney chose not to release a 3D edition of the film, let alone a 4K Ultra HD version. This possibly hints at more double dipping later on, perhaps a new edition that includes more than just a couple of minutes of deleted scenes.
Disney has yet to really commit to Ultra HD Blu-ray, and only it and, surprisingly, Sony have yet to announce their release slate following Universal’s announcement this week. Universal’s first Ultra HD discs, to be released sometime in the U.S. summer, will be ‘Everest’, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Lone Survivor’, and the new releases to receive the 4K treatment will include ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ and the as yet unreleased ‘Jason Bourne’ and ‘Warcraft’ movies. Perhaps not the most exciting line-up ever considering all the films that Universal have access to, and definitely not as exciting as The Force Awakens, which is the kind of title that benefits most from a 4K treatment and would boost the format to no end if it becomes available.
There’s something a lot more concrete to the rumors of a new “super” PS4, including a codename of the so far still unofficial console upgrade. The PS4 “NEO” will have a better CPU, GPU and faster RAM – not quite next-gen, but enough to make 4K gaming a reality.
As for how Sony will reconcile having two vastly different PS4 SKUs, the company has informed developers of several restrictions to how they can release games in the future. First of all, all games have to work on the older standard PS4s, but they are allowed to have a “NEO Mode” that includes support for better graphics. Games in “NEO Mode” have to have the same or better framerate than games in standard mode, even if the games are running at 4K (and games also have to be at least 1080p). Things like save games and online modes have to be shareable and compatible between the two modes.
What isn’t so clear right now is whether the included Blu-ray drive will be upgraded to one that can read Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. It seems like the perfect opportunity to add UHD Blu-ray playback to the PS4, but it all depends on how costly it would be to add the drive, and more importantly, how costly it will be to obtain the licensing needed to allow UHD Blu-ray playback.
Microsoft may be working on their own upgraded Xbox One too, which FCC filings (and the Brazilian equivalent) pointing to at least two more SKUs. Interestingly, there’s information to suggest that all will be revealed at E3, but whether these proves to be the elusive Xbox One.Point.Five, or just a minor SKU refresh, we’ll have to wait and see.
What we won’t wait to find out is the fate of the Xbox 360, which this week Microsoft announced the end of production for. It’s been an incredibly successful decade for the 360, which didn’t start well (remember the RRoD?), but ended very strongly. With the Xbox One now having backwards compatibility, I guess Microsoft has decided the time was right to send the old beige, and eventually black box into retirement.
Rest well, 360, you deserve it.
So that’s it for the week. Not a minute too soon either, as I’m freezing my appendages off here. See you next week, when hopefully it’s a bit warmer.