Sony’s Rumoured Clampdown on Second-Hand Games

Gaming, Piracy 1 Comment »

As regular readers of The Shelf will know, we are firm supporters of the Playstaion 3 over the Xbox and Blu-ray over HD DVD for a variety of reasons, of which Sony sponsorship is not one of them, having access to the latest gadgets before they hit the market would have its benefits.

However, recent rumours have started to concern us here, and although they are unfounded according to Sony there has been increasing talk of the PS3 manufacturer taking steps to cut down on the second hand games trade that has been o popular retail model for high street stores such as game.

The plans that have led to an explosion of opinion in forums, blogs and journals online include the insertion of code on game discs that binds it to the machine it is first played on, thus eradicating the second hand sales market overnight.

“The technology would allow an authentication code to be read and then rendered unreadable; making the software unplayable on any machine but the one which first read it.”

The supporting argument here is that second hand game revenue is not shared with the manufacturer of the original game. Although they have clearly already been paid once for the game title, the argument is that often resold games use server resources in the form of tech support. A significant number of people calling up saying “I don’t have my serial number” are quite likely to be from second hand sales and this cost manufactures money.

I personally believe that this is a bit far fetched, when you pay near £50 for a title are you not paying for technical support for the games life – whether it was you who paid that is by the by – the fee for this support has been received.

The other point is that second hand game stores will often promote second hand titles over new ones, and as companies do receive revenue from second hand titles they are loosing revenue. As such manufactures would like to see an official refurbished games policy where both the shop and game manufacturer gets paid.

I see a problem in this. Games manufactures have already been paid once for a title and as such the most successful games are those that sell the greatest volume, and in reality this is a fair assessment. Would implementing the aforementioned policy simply encourage game making to aggressively advertise mediocre games?

After initial sales disappointment in the product would be encouraged so that the game title is sold onto the next person, with the manufactures taking a slice of the re-sale profit. We would the be left with manufactures measuring the success of games by the amount the game is circulated second hand, not by initial sales encouraging lower quality games to be released.

From a user perspective I think this would severely restrict the offering of any console implementing this technology, not to mention an incredibly bad business idea. As a result

1. Users could not sell a game after you’ve played it
2. Users could not buy or play any second-hand games

So what happens when I’ve bought round to a mate’s house to play, even if it’s to encourage him to get a copy so we can play online? I can’t bottom line.

Secondly if you invest in a bad game you are stuck with it, which would mean make people more reluctant to buy game titles.

Thirdly all games that a consumer has invested in throughout the years (for instance PS1 and PS2 console games) would be unplayable on the new PS3 with this technology.

Lastly I don’t know what would happen if like many first generation consoles they needed replacing under the manufacturers warranty. The new console would make the games bought to date redundant, meaning a customer has a lot of expensive drink coasters on their hands.

A quote from Sony has said

“I would like to clarify that this is false speculation and that PlayStation 3 software will not be copy protected to a single machine but will be playable on any PlayStation 3 console. “

But there is often no smoke without fire. Could it be such plans were in the pipeline only to be shelved because of the consumer reaction? Either that or a very clever marketing trick from Microsoft.

Yahoo Secures Deal to Serve Ads to T-Mobile Handsets

Mobile, The Interwebs No Comments »

Mobile phone operator T-Mobile has recently announced plans with internet search provider Yahoo to place adverts onto its Web’n’walk mobile internet service, with the first adverts expected to be served before the third quarter of the year.

Mobile internet advertising has grown rapidly in recent years and Yahoo has been taking aggressive steps to sell and manage adverts, possibly making amends for the setbacks seen in its core web search and advertising business against competitors such as Google.

Yahoo also secured a similar deal with Vodafone in November 2006, and this deal with T-Mobile secure two of the big four networks in the UK.

The Web’n’walk service from T-Mobile allows users to have unlimited browsing and email facilities on their mobile handsets, with a contracted minutes and text allowance.

What Yahoo intends to do as part of the agreement is implement banner advertising through the internet onto Web’n’walk mobile handsets. The adverts served as part of the agreement will be exclusively sold and served by Yahoo.

The agreement is part of Yahoos plans to bring the ‘rich web experience’ it provides online, to the mobile handset. Other initiatives for enhancing web content on wireless devices include a mobile widget program aimed at bringing in more content and Web applications from third parties.

Yahoo is hoping by adding mobile adverts to its offerings it will be able to secure a larger stake of the whole internet based advertising market.

“Advertisers are fast recognising the value of mobile advertising as a core part of their digital campaigns.” – Yahoo’s Geraldine Wilson

Mobile deals are not restricted to advertising either for Yahoo, and dubbed the ‘portal king’ Yahoo has also signed agreements with wireless carriers in Europe, South America and Asia to make its OneSearch the default home page for subscribers who surf using a handset.

Yahoo does not currently have exclusive advertising or content partnerships with any wireless carrier in the United States, but the company has been working actively with all major providers to stake a claim in the US market.

Virgin Galactic Uncovers Launch System

Travel 1 Comment »

Virgin Galactic has released final designs of the launch system that is to be used in its commercial venture to put fare paying passengers into space. When the project is completed in 2010 passengers will be able to experience up to six minutes of weightlessness for a cost of around £100,000.

Unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History, the model of SpaceShipTwo is the vehicle that will take passengers 62 miles above the earth, with test flights already scheduled for later this year.

The main aim of designers in test flights is to ensure the safety of the system after three people were killed when a tank of nitrous oxide exploded in a test of SpaceShipTwo’s propellant system.

Will Whitehorn, president of Branson’s space-tourism company, Virgin Galactic, said “construction on the White Knight Two is more than 70 percent complete.”

When completed SpaceShipTwo will be carried by its carrier WhiteKnightTwo, where it will be launched mid-flight carrying six passengers and two crew. The craft will drop from the twin cabin high altitude jet which can also double as a space tourist training craft.

WhiteKnightTwo itself has a wingspan of 140ft and is built to handle unmanned rockets, and is capable of launching small payloads such as satellites into orbit. The SpaceShipTwo itself is based upon the X-Prize winning SpacShipOne concept, a rocket ship that was launched in flight before blasting skywards.

“I think it’s very important that we make a genuine commercial success of this project, if we do, I believe we’ll unlock a wall of private sector money into both space launch systems and space technology” Richard Branson said on his latest commercial venture

So far Virgin Galactic has already taken 200 prospective bookings from 30 countries accounting for millions of dollars already being on the books.

Virgin Galactic is just one of several companies aiming to offer space trips in the near future. Competitors include the entrepreneur of Jeff Bezos who has his own scheme, as does the Paypal founder, Elon Musk. Even Europe’s EADS Astrium, the company that coordinates the manufacture of the Ariane 5 rocket, is developing a commercial suborbital ship.

Blu-ray Divides an Already Confused Market

Technology No Comments »

Last week on The Shelf we posted about the HD DVD and Blu-ray format, and how the format backed by Sony has now cemented deals ensuring 70% of Hollywood productions are released in Blu-ray. But for Blu-ray consumer’s trouble could be in store before the war is even declared over.

Owners of Blu-ray players have found that for there troubles of supporting the format and purchasing the next generation DVD player early on, they could be frozen out of future developments in the technology because the players are not upgradeable.

The Blu-ray format has recently rolled out a series of new developments, including a picture in picture feature, but the majority of players that have been sold to date do not have the necessary hardware to offer such features.

Some of the discs that are currently being released in the format are coming with notices that some users made have to upgrade the software in their machine, adding confusion to an already divided market place.

The issues raised by the development of new features have come about as the Sony format tries to compete with the interactivity of HD DVD, the one specialised area the format has failed to convince in.

As a result of these unplanned developments manufacturing specifications do not support the new features, all machines built prior to November 2007 are billed as profile 1.0, where as the new features require a profile 1.1 machine. In 2008 profile 2.0 will also be released called BD Live, which will support internet downloads of related content.

The only Blu-ray player which can upgraded to use all the features is Sony’s PlayStation 3, because it comes with the right hardware built-in and online access.

BBC iPlayer Offers Free On Demand TV

TV & Film 2 Comments »

I for one am pleased to see the increase of free on demand services that are being offered online as part of terrestrial TV’s catch up to digital services. With services such as sky plus losing there appeal thanks to these freely accessible achieves, I find myself looking more toward buying a new PC compatible flat screen TV than a 12 month sky plus package. In all honesty I would mainly use such a facility to record programmes produced by the BBC and Channel Four and there digital counterparts, and with all this content now available online for free I ask myself what’s the point?

I even got to the stage where I almost invested in BT’s offering of BT vision, at £30 for a set top box which recorded preset programmes I thought it was a good deal. This until I realised I need a new 12 month BT broadband contract, and as I have 6 months left I refuse to pay the “otherwise £199” fee.

For these reasons I was quite pleased when I read that over 3.5 million programmes have now been watched by more than a million people on BBC iPlayer – the catch up online service launched by the BBC.

According to an article on the BBC, on average over 250,000 programmes were either streamed or downloaded each day following its launch the day after Christmas day, and nearly half of all programmes streamed or downloaded were otherwise placed outside the top 50 most popular shows.

I took part in the trial for this service in the summer of 2007 and thought it was a fantastic service, a great chance to watch quality programming free online. I have not been so happy to pay my license fee for a long time, and if it supports more projects like this then I am even more willing to pay it.

Sky, Channel 4 and ITV, have also launched rival online video services in the last 12 months, and on the back of the BBC iPlayer I am currently foraging around in Channel 4’s 4OD service which also looks good.

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