Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

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Sony loses a big battle in format war
By Doug Thompson

Sony Corp.’s big gamble on the PlayStation 3 has flopped.
The PS3 was a Trojan horse that was supposed to get Blu-Ray disc players in millions of homes. People would buy it as a game console, but would have a high-definition video player to boot. They’d never think about buying the rival HD-DVD format.
It was such a simple plan. What a shame they forgot to develop any games for a $600 console. The best game available for the PS3, “Oblivion,” was released for personal computers and the Microsoft’s Xbox 360 a year earlier.
Sony was so desperate for good numbers for the PS3, they bragged about record-setting sales in the United Kingdom. Well, those sales fell from 165,000 the first week to 28,000 the second, according to the British press.
Thanks to the PS3, there are five times as many Blu-Ray player owners than HD-DVD owners. However, the average Blu-Ray player’s owner has bought a pitiful 2.3 movies in the format, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
“If PS3 people all started buying HD discs then by sheer weight Blu-ray would walk this battle,” Helen Davis Jayalath, senior video analyst at Screen Digest, is quoted in the Guardian article. “But that’s not likely, because they are gamers.”
You have to have a heck of a television big-screen TV to get anything close to the full advantage out of a high-definition video player. Most gamers don’t. Most gamers want a machine that plays games. If they ever want an HD video player, they buy the HD-DVD attachment for their Xbox 360.
The PS3 disaster is not complete. Sony has opened a production line for Blu-Ray that’s been boosted by the PS3. The costs of the players of the format are going down. The problem is that Blu-Ray is still more expensive than HD-DVD.
Not that HD-DVD is cheap. Rumors that the HD-DVD rivals were going to sell a $200 to Wal-Mart is — as of Monday morning — not such a sure thing. The Chinese manufacturer that was supposed to get the order for the players issued a statement that it has no such order. Also, industry analysts are saying now that the $200 HD-DVD is still a long way off.
What’s the owner of a home theater system to do? Here’s the short answer: Wait. The format wars will rage on. In the meantime, don’t throw away any old personal computers.
The hype-krieg over game consoles and movie formats wars ignore two vital facts. First, the best-selling console is still the old, mighty PlayStation 2 — a DVD player. People who probably already own DVD players are buying those PS2s. The DVD’s a long way from dead.
The second vital fact is that Microsoft is a computer software company. Consoles are a money-losing sideline. M$ is making its Xbox 360 games easy for developers to make into a PC version. Microsoft is backing the HD-DVD for computers.
An computer makes a dandy home entertainment player — or so I’m told. Readers beware: I don’t have a home theater system. I have a VCR-DVD player and a tube television.
However, I could: Upgrade a computer to the Vista operating system, install an HD-DVD drive into it when those drives are available, and hook it up to a wall-to-wall TV screen. As a gamer, I already have an adequate video card in the computer. Presto-chango, I’d have a system that could: Record programs to the hard drive, play high-definition movies, access the Internet, play PC games you won’t find on any console and play the PC version of any console game for the next generation game console leader, the Xbox 360. I could even play a multi-player game over the Internet with somebody who’s using an Xbox 360.
Alternatively, I could buy a very good — and quiet — water-cooled computer with outstanding game and home entertainment performance.
Sony’s not dead yet, but it’s biggest direct rival in games is thinking up some good ways to kill it.

Daddy Warbucks

Oh those sales and taxes
The trio of spring and early summer holiday sales began last week with preparations for Sunday’s Mothers Day. In Fayetteville, however, Mother’s Day luncheons are almost smothered by UA graduation ceremonies on Saturday – one of the biggest restaurant days of the year.

Local sales tax in Washington County—as we all know—has been in a freefall since the new malls and shopping districts in Rogers have all but cut off those scores of cars and pickup trucks streaming out of Benton County for the Northwest Arkansas Mall, retail shops and restaurants in Washington County. But there is a belief that the sales tax freefall is in a stall (Daddy W. prefers to call it a correction), which will been seen in this fall – IF – and it is a big IF— the general economy corrects itself. When the three percent tax cut on groceries comes along in the next 90 days – again those who love to wring their hands at the sales tax declines will be in full voice. A correction on the sales tax revenue stream will be slow in coming, but it will even out over time. Fayetteville and Springdale folks seems to forget there were lots and lots of cars from Benton County that made the cash registers jingle in Washington County.

Tribute coming
Daddy hears a very emotional tribute for the late First Lady of Wal-Mart, Helen Robson Walton, is planned for the Wal-Mart Shareholders meeting in early June. It will include some video footage of her past appearances on the main stage and some candid footage of her in the early days of the giant retailer. Anything less would be unacceptable.

Tyson surgery
Don Tyson, retired CEO and patriarch of the Tyson Foods Empire, has undergone
surgery at the famed Mayo Clinic for a rare tumor. We wish him well. The chicken giant, has sold off millions of dollars of his Class A shares and the stock and company profits look strong at this point.

Heaven’s Gate
The tiny Chinese takeout spot on the corner of Garland and North Streets, sadly, has closed. The entire gas and convenience store complex in a prime location is oddly vacant.

Roger Wilco
Wal-Mart continues to announce plans to step up its radio frequency tracking system on pallets of goods, not only in its warehouses, but in stores. The tiny chips will help the giant retailer track goods both on and off the shelves and avoid shortages and overages of its stock. Over and Out.

New Movie House
The folks building the new Malco 12 (or is it 16?) behind the Mall Avenue Wal-Mart have painted themselves into a corner. Saying it’s gonna open sooner than announced. The old Malco down on North College may be a grocery store? Doubt it. Probably will be torn down to make better use of the property.

Celebs down
Daddy hears there will be more cutbacks for the Wal-Mart Shareholders meeting this summer—fewer celebs and musicians.

Healthy Club
The area’s health clubs and spas have gotten together. The Metro Health Club Alliance of NW Arkansas has been formed. Bob Shoulders of the Fayetteville Athletic Club is the president. Daddy W. will look for good things to come from this alliance. Gym rats unite!

Less Squawk
There will be less squawk at some U.S. poultry processing plants. The high cost of feed (now that corn’s being made into gasoline) has caused some poultry companies to cutback on chicken production. How much? 6.5 million fewer went  to the chopping block last month. But take heart, locals, Arkansans’ slaughter of chickens is actually up to 93.13 million birds from a 2005 number of 85.54 million for the same time period.

Top eateries
The top grossing eateries in Fayetteville for February shook out like this: 1. Olive Garden 2.Golden Corral 3. Red Lobster 4. Chick-Fil-A 5.Chili’s 6. Noodle’s 7. Logan’s Roadhouse 8. TGI Fridays 9. Bordino’s 10, McDonald’s Mall Avenue.

One Comment

Darrel May 21, 2007 at 12:04 pm

It’s unfortunate to see Doug Thompson pass along prattle he reads in the media about the Playstation 3 flopping. Let’s compare early PS3 sales to it’s competitors. According to NPD Group data, (source, my latest issue of “Game Informer”) the PS3 sold approximately 902,000 consoles during its first three months in the US. The Xbox? It sold about 854,000 consoles in it’s first three months. That’s 50,000 fewer. It would also make sense to compare the sales of Sony’s highly successful PSOne and PS2 game consoles during the same time frame. Turns out, the PS3 outsold each one of them and at a considerably higher price point (and in a market saturated with 100 million+ PS2’s).
Thompson tells us that they forgot to develop any games for the $600 console. It’s true that all new consoles suffer from an initial lack of games so nothing new there. The PS3 launched day one with 12 titles. It’s many times that now and the wikipedia.com shows 225 PS3 titles currently in the works. Most of those will probably be out this year. The PS3 is an extremely powerful gaming system and I predict a bright and long future for it.

Darrel.

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