Archive for the ‘Xbox 360, Xbox One’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (December 4, 2016)

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Welcome to another edition of the Weekly News Roundup. A new week has definitely passed, but unfortunately, due to Thanksgiving probably and me being busy with other stuff, there’s not much to talk about (or more precisely, there’s no news to talk about at all).

So instead, I’ll use this blank canvas to ramble incoherently about DVD, Blu-ray and 4K sales, as a preview to my yearly Blu-ray: The State of Play series.

Regular readers will know that I’ve been keeping track of weekly U.S. Blu-ray and DVD sales numbers for quite a few years now, and every year, I write the “State of Play” to summarise how the year went in terms of sales, and looks at trends. Even though we are without probably the best weeks of the year in terms of sales, I thought I would offer a preview of what the year has been like so far for Blu-ray sales.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Logo

Is Ultra HD Blu-ray helping total disc sales?

It’s an important year because a new Blu-ray format, Ultra HD Blu-ray, was introduced, and the popularization of streaming continued unabated. So it’s important to take a look to see if discs are still a thing that people want. More importantly, has 4K had a positive effect on the format (considering that 4K UHD Blu-ray sales are counted as Blu-ray sales in the stats I provide weekly).

Looking at the stats, the short answer is yes, 4K has helped Blu-ray record a turn-around!

2015 was not a good year for discs, and not a good year for Blu-ray. Blu-ray revenue had declined for the second year running, and it certainly appears that “peak Blu-ray” or even “peak disc”, where the peak for Blu-ray/disc sales, had already been reached some time in 2013.

But 2016 is turning out to be quite different, at least for the first 47 weeks so far of the year, and the turning point came in March, when the first Ultra HD Blu-ray discs were released.

Let me go into some more detail for you. Of the 52 weeks in 2015, thirty weeks (that’s close to 58% of the weeks) had a Blu-ray revenue result that was lower than the same week in 2014, compared to 22 weeks (42%) that had recorded a rise in Blu-ray revenue.

Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

Studios aren’t shy to bring their biggest hits to UHD Blu-ray

For 2016 so far, it has reversed, where 21 weeks (45%) were worse compared to 26 weeks (55%) that were better. Looking at the same time period (the first 47 weeks) in 2015, Blu-ray revenue was 7.6% lower than the same period in 2014, but comparing 2016 to 2015, Blu-ray revenue is now up 2.3%. That’s what I call a turnaround!

Now looking at the first 11 weeks of 2016 that did not include any Ultra HD Blu-ray sales, 6 of these weeks were worse than the same weeks in 2016, only 5 were better. Revenue for this period had fallen 6.1% compared to a year ago.

So in other words, before Ultra HD Blu-ray, revenue was falling at about the same rate as in 2015, but since then, revenue has actually risen. Ultra HD Blu-ray has had a very positive effect on Blu-ray sales.

None of this should be a surprise for those that have been following the WNR. I’ve mentioned many times that studios have been very proactive in releasing titles on UHD Blu-ray, and that the UHD version is selling quite well given how new the format it (it frequently beats the 3D version of the same film). And studios are only keen to push UHD because there are lots of households already with 4K, thanks to a lower than expect price premium to upgrade to the format (relatively speaking, of course).

Now with that said, the final few weeks of 2016 could still change things around, depending on how receptive people are to Ultra HD Blu-ray during this crucial sales period. But given that the Xbox One S is expected to sell very well in the U.S. during the holidays, and the Xbox One S includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, it’s quite possible the sales growth will actually intensify during the next few weeks.

We’ll have to wait a few more weeks before I can confirm were Blu-ray revenue will end up, and even if my hypothesis is correct and that 4K is helping sales, it’s hard to tell if this boost is just a temporary one on the transition away from discs.


More news (or some news) next week, I promise. Have a good one!

Weekly News Roundup (November 20, 2016)

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Welcome to another week here on the Weekly News Roundup. Hope everything’s been well? Having Trump-tastically good week or a Trump-sasterously bad one? Having a nice Trump-eekend, on a nice Trump-day (every day is a Trump-day)? Sorry, but we’ve been forced to make some changes here at WNR HQ by President-Elect Trump, so this is how things are now.

It was a good week in terms of news though, in that there were some interesting ones and ones that are away from the usual copyright related bore-fest that fills the WNR all far too often.


HDMI Connector

Sony’s buggy firmware, or did HDMI’s nasty DRM HDCP strike again?

I know it’s kind of weird to continue on from the last sentence by bringing you a copyright related story, but this one actually has a little bit of everything in relation to what we usually cover here in the WNR. The new super duper 4K PS4 Pro (gaming – check!) has hit a snatch thanks to a potentially buggy firmware update, that, possibly due to annoying DRM (copyright – check!), causes the console to output nothing but a blank screen (digital video – check!).

Those with selected TVs (especially the older, but 4K variety) and who intend to upgrade to 4.05 may need to hold off (4.06 is out, but it doesn’t fix this issue), or follow the workaround I linked to in the news story, as a potential bug in the HDMI copy protection scheme HDCP may be causing a blank display for some. The workaround involves going into the PS4’s Safe Mode and changing the output to HDMI 1.4, or turning off HDCP entirely.

A proper fix in the form of another firmware update is expected to hit the PS4 eventually, so it’s a good thing that the PS4 allows you to turn off HDCP (primarily used to capture gaming footage), even though this means you’ll not be able to play most videos (Blu-ray, Netflix, etc…) due to the fact that Hollywood is extremely paranoid.

High Definition

You still won’t be able to play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on the PS4 Pro though, because Sony missed a really big opportunity to market the PS4 Pro as the ultimate 4K machine, not just for gaming, but also for video (that is, until the Xbox One Scorpio arrives). I can understand if Sony wanted to remain more profitable (or less lossy) by not including a new UHD drive in the PS4 Slim, but it just doesn’t make much sense to skip it for the PS4 Pro, especially considering Sony the studio is actually quite active in releasing movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray, and that Sony the consumer electronics firm is bit lacking in the Ultra HD Blu-ray standalone department.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Logo

Ultra HD Blu-ray is a hit with consumers …

And it’s a shame, because UHD Blu-ray actually appears to be doing quite well, better than Blu-ray was at the same time in its release cycle. Over 1 million UHD discs have already been sold in the U.S., and that’s before the format has had its first Holiday sales season even.

For those that follows my weekly Blu-ray/DVD sales analysis, it’s easy to see that studios have (for the most part – Disney, I’m looking at you!) embraced Ultra HD Blu-ray – most new releases, even some you might consider as minor ones, are getting the UHD treatment, many also getting HDR too. Prices are higher, but not astronomical for a new format. Consumer electronics firms have also contributed by ensuring the premium for 4K TVs is mainly due to the increased screen size (and decreased depth) – smaller 4KTVs are actually quite affordable given how new the format is. So with plenty of new content, and affordable hardware, it’s easy to see why the format is doing well.


PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

… so why didn’t the two new PS4s include playback when the Xbox One S did?

Which brings me back to my earlier point about the PS4 Pro’s lack of UHD Blu-ray support being such a missed opportunity. Sony’s wrong turn could benefit Microsoft, as the Xbox One had just beat the PS4 for the fourth straight month in the U.S. largely on the backs of the UHD Blu-ray capable Xbox One S. This is despite Sony releasing the PS4 Slim, which many analysts see as a totally unnecessary addition to the PS4 line-up. I can see why Sony needs a cheaper PS4 Slim to sit alongside the “premium” PS4 Pro, but while the Slim and just like its fatter older sibling is a better console than the original Xbox One, it looks decidedly average in value compared to the S. Even without looking at the lack of UHD Blu-ray playback, the Slim is not as powerful as the S, it’s not capable of 4K (at the moment) for things like Netflix, and the S can also do 4K upscaling for games. Microsoft is on to a winner with the Xbox One S – the PS4 Slim just simply isn’t

With that said, PlayStation VR may tip the battle in favour of Sony again though. But the game may change again when the Xbox One ‘Scorpio’ is unleashed.

Whatever happens, gamers will be the ultimate winner as competition between Sony, Microsoft, and come next year, Nintendo heats up.


And that’s all we have for you this week. See you next week, but until then (and as we’re now legally obligated to end all articles this way), May the Trump be with You!

Weekly News Roundup (October 30, 2016)

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Welcome to the pre Halloween edition of the WNR. There’s nothing particularly scary or Halloweeny about this edition though, well other than the usual scary, depressing, frustrating and insane anti-piracy news stories that I post almost every week. More Groundhog Day than Halloween, I suppose.


Another scary anti-piracy idea comes from Cisco this week, as the networking giant has a new way to help cable companies protect their price gouging business model, via anti-piracy tech. Cisco plans to tackle the problem piracy of cable content, especially the live streaming of cable channels, by something they call Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP). SPP will help cable networks digitally watermark their content, and when a stream or download is detected by SPP, it’s able to trace the pirated content (via the watermark) all the way back to the subscriber account that’s responsible for pirating the content. In the case of a live piracy streaming, SPP is able then to communicate with the cable company’s systems and immediately shut down the account in question, thus cutting off the stream in the quickest possible way.

SPP will be completely automated, meaning no human intervention is required. And because of this, SPP is also likely to trigger a lot of false positives if the past is any indication.

Streaming piracy is a big problem, especially at times of major sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympics. But I’m always weary of tech solutions to piracy, especially automated ones. And it still doesn’t address the root cause of piracy, which is an access problem, usually caused by high pricing, lack of value, choice, and services that aren’t in tune with how people want their content delivered (that is, online and accessible everywhere – the polar opposite of a cable connection).

Pirated Movies For Sale

DVD screeners are a more and more common source of pirated copies

Now a story about a different kind of piracy, and something that involves players completely within the film industry. Warner Bros. has sued well known talent agency Innovative Artists for copyright infringement, for leaking award screeners that were sent to the agency. The screeners that have been mentioned in the lawsuit are for the movies ‘Creed’ and ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ and were sent to Innovative – the digital watermark in the pirated downloads were then tracked to the copies given to the agency. The agency represents clients including the likes of Adam Ferrara (Rescue Me), Alicia Witt (Twin Peaks) and used to represent The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons.

Innovative have since provided an official statement, saying they were surprised that this matter wasn’t handled privately and will now head to the courts, despite the agency having previously cooperated fully with Warner on the same matter. The sharing of screeners, Innovative says, is also commonplace in Hollywood and something that Warner knows all about.

So instead of going after downloaders, it seems Hollywood need to get their own house in order, since screener piracy, one of the most damaging kind (because it usually happens before the retail disc release of the movie), has become far more common in the last couple of years as pirates up their game and try to release movies as fast as possible.


Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

Ultra HD Movies like Deadpool may sound better on the Xbox One S thanks to a firmware update in 2017

The Xbox One S is helping Microsoft bridge the sales gap between the console and the PS4, at least in North America, and at least some part of that is due to the inclusion of a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive in the console, allowing it to play the latest 4K movie discs. This has helped to greatly improve the value of the Xbox One S, which is actually cheaper than most standalone UHD Blu-ray players on the market. This makes the Xbox One S almost no brainer for those looking to buy a UHD player, even if they don’t want to play too many games – I say almost because the Xbox One S’s UHD Blu-ray function does lack a few key features.

These mostly relate to the console’s poor audio output options, with no bitstream output support, and as a result, no support for Dolby Atmos and DTS-X. This rules out the Xbox One S as a serious contender for those that have already heavily invested in these next-gen audio system, or are planning to.

At least this was the case until this week, when Microsoft announced that bitstream output, along with Dolby Atmos and DTS-X support, will be coming to the Xbox One S in early 2017. Not only that, bitstream support and Dolby Atmos for gaming is also coming to the original Xbox One.

The inclusion of UHD Blu-ray even in the cheapest Xbox One by Microsoft, in my opinion, is a masterstroke. Whether this helps the Xbox One catch up to the PS4 is another matter though, as the PS4’s lead is extremely impressive, to say the least.


I think that’s all we have for this week. Hope it wasn’t too boring. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (October 16, 2016)

Sunday, October 16th, 2016
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Poster

Download the H.264, HEVC trailer converted from a high bitrate ProRes source

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Hope you’ve been well, but I’ve been suffering. Some of you that are reading this will be well aware of an affliction innocuously known as “hay fever”. A more descriptive name for the condition may not be appropriate for publishing here due to the number of four letter swear words present, but suffice to say, it sucks balls. When you actually get dehydrated from a runny nose, and when your eyes are so itchy that rubbing them for 5 minutes straight does nothing to alleviate the suffering, then you know why it sucks balls.

Before we get to the news, I’ve been busy this week uploading a few trailers. First up was the ‘Rogue One’ trailer, available in both H.264 and H.265/HEVC. The next trailers, for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ are a bit unique, in that these were sourced from a ProRes trailer (3.1GB!), and so their quality is very nice. Again, these are available in H.264 and HEVC, at much smaller file sizes for your convenience.

Anyway, on to the news for the week …



The RIAA probably won’t apologise for seizing the wrong domain name

This week I learned that it’s not a good idea use a domain name that’s way too similar to that of another popular piracy site. Case in point,, who have nothing to do with the more well known MP3Skull site, just had their domain name seized by the RIAA, quite illegally I might add, just because of its familiar domain name. The RIAA may have won a court case against MP3Skull, but I don’t think it gave them the right to just grab any old domain name just because it looks similar.

To be fair to the RIAA, the people that ran the MP3Skull website did contribute to this case of mistaken identity by redirecting their previous domain name to the, completely unrelated, site – this might have given the RIAA the impression that both sites are the same, even though they’re not.

Now, I’m not saying that was whiter than white and did not engage in activities that the RIAA might have found objectionable too, but there’s a reason why things like injunctions and court orders have to be granted before one is able to take action. The owners of have never had any dealings with the RIAA in the courts, and so the RIAA had no right to use an unrelated court ruling to do what they did.

But don’t expect the RIAA to apologise and return the domain name any time soon – history has shown that these kind of “errors” are usually never rectified, or by the time they are, there’s usually no point in getting the domain name back.


It can’t be long now before Nintendo officially launches the Nintendo NX, considering that it’s set to launch early next year. And as expected, the rumour mills have been working overtime and there’s more information than ever about what the NX will be like. Past experiences tell me that rumours so close to the official unveil tend to be closer to the truth than what you might expect, and the cynical side of me is convinced that some of the so called leaks are completely intentional, and used to build up hype leading up to the launch.

Wii U

The NX may take the Wii U’s “portable hybrid” concept a step further

The latest round of rumours says the NX will be 3-4 times more powerful than the Wii U, making it about as powerful as the Xbox One. More on that later. The same source also says building games on the NX will be a lot easier than before, which might be a good thing from a third party game point of view. Another source, and this one seems to be more legit, suggests that the NX will have a launch price of $299.99, and comes with the promotional slogan “Interact with your game on the go”. This would definitely line up with earlier rumours about the console being a “hybrid”, that bridges the gap between portable and home based gaming. Four (I assume, first party Nintendo) games are set to be available at launch, with at least one Mario title, another is probably ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’. The console is also set to support 4K video streaming, but not 4K gaming as the console is probably only powerful enough for 1080p gaming (and 900p for the “hybrid part of the device”).

Which brings us back to the expected processing power of the console. If the NX could be as powerful as the Xbox One, and add on top of that Nintendo’s advantages in terms of their first party franchises and their knack for bringing the fun into game, then this could be a very good combo. Or at least this was the case before both Sony and Microsoft decided to up the ante and release a mid-generation upgrade to their flagship consoles. This could make Nintendo’s console the least powerful console again, when before these moves, it could have been on par at the very least with the other two. That’s life for ya, I guess.

Xbox One S

Xbox One S helping Microsoft beat Sony in the US at least, thanks to Ultra HD Blu-ray drive?

Speaking of the updated Xbox One, it may very well be a game-changer for Microsoft, with Xbox One sales beating that of the PS4 for three months in a row now. It still has a long way to go before it can even think about catching up to the PS4, but it’s been a well made update that addresses some of the problems with the original Xbox One, and alsop gave buyers something new to think about. Even better is the fact that Sony released the PS4 Slim in September, and yet the Xbox One still managed to come out on top. This may change next month when the PS4 Slim has a whole month to sell, or if it doesn’t, then the November release of the PS4 Pro could also change things again, but I’m sure it feels nice for Microsoft to be on top, even if only temporarily.

If the Xbox One S does continue to sell well, then the inclusion of Ultra HD Blu-ray playback may be a decisive factor. The Xbox One S is great value for those already on the market for a UHD Blu-ray player, and it makes the console stand out against the competition.


And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you’ve enjoyed this one, see you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (September 25, 2016)

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Finally getting back into the swing of things, and also the right time zone. Luckily for me, it wasn’t one of those hectic news weeks where news stories just oozes out of every crevice. Nope, it was one of those nice and quiet ones where just the right amount of ooze is present, and I can write this WNR without feeling like I’m writing a novel.

So on to the news!


DRM Doesn't Work T-Shirt

Coffee pods, light bulbs, and now printers – all with DRM that won’t work

Who doesn’t love a DRM news story? It’s always interesting to see which industry, and which company has come up with a new way to screw their own customers, and then wait and see how long it takes before the DRM is inevitably broken anyway (broken in the sense that it no longer protects the content or product, and also broken in the sense that it doesn’t work and causes legitimate users to suffer). This time, it’s the printer industry, HP, and not very long before their latest attempt to curb competition will fail. HP has sneakily added in a new DRM to their printers that prevents them from using third-party ink, giving users an misleading “damaged ink cartridge” message.

I say sneaky because the new protection scheme was added in via a firmware update more than half a year ago, but was set to activate only this week. I guess HP wanted to give their customer service department more time to prepare for the barrage of complaint calls.

And as with most DRM implementations, it was buggy. Some users have reported that their HP branded cartridges are being labeled as “damaged” as well, and one user reported the printer refused to let him exchange the cartridge at all.

Worst of all, but totally expected, this new anti-competitive measure may end up being broken sooner rather than later. Third party ink manufacturers are already promising new updated cartridges that will be able to bypass the new DRM scheme.

So lots of bad publicity, user complaints, lost customers and in the end, all probably for nothing. Yep, that’s DRM for ya! Why won’t they ever learn?

Dr. Downloadlove or: How I Learned To Love Piracy. Having finally realised that constantly complaining about piracy is not a cool things to do anymore, more and more industry peeps are now learning to embrace it. Or rather, they’re finally admitting that piracy isn’t always the Big Bad Wolf that they’ve been telling us all this time.

The latest declaration of adoration occurred at the All That Matters content conference in Singapore, when former Sony India exec Samir Bangara declared his unending love for piracy in front of unimpressed movie studio execs. So okay, it wasn’t as controversial as I’ve made it sound, but Bangara did state that piracy may be the solution to one of the biggest problems facing media companies at the moment: discoverability. Bangara also pointed to the value of piracy data in determining what users wanted to watch, data that companies like Netflix and Warner Bros. have also admitted to using in the past.

Or to sum up, piracy rocks!


PS4 Pro

PS4 Pro can do 4K gaming, kind of

More fallout from the PS4 Pro launch, and the subsequent rubbing-it-in-ness that Microsoft have been engaged in ever since. It’s not helped by the fact that Sony promoted the PS4 Pro as a 4K console, but possibly due to legal reasons and more prodding by tech journalists, they’ve had to clarify their statement quite a bit. Most people who had a detailed look at the PS4 Pro specs realised that this thing was not going to do native 4K. Sony has also said that the majority of of PS4 Pro enabled games will be upscaled to 4K.

So instead of being pedantic about this many pixels or whatever, Sony says it’s all about whether gamers are able to see a difference and how close to a real 4K gaming experience it will be. To be fair, it would take an enormously powerful machine to do native 4K without compromises (think PCs with $1000+ GPUs), and not even Microsoft’s Xbox One Scorpio, coming a year later, will be able to do 4K without taking a few shortcuts.

Microsoft has been keen to point out they their effort, with 6 teraflops of power, will get gamers much closer to true native 4K than the Pro’s 4.2 teraflops (which was never really going to be good enough for 4K). But even Microsoft has admitted that there will be “asterisks” when it comes to the Scorpio claiming to do 4K gaming, but just fewer of them than Sony’s effort.


So that’s another week done and dusted. Hoping for more and more interesting stories to update you on next week. Until then, have a great week!