Japan PS3 Quantity Slashed Again…. Is the US Next?

Looks like Sony can’t get a PS3 shortage break. The Nikkei Keizai Shimbun paper reports today that due to component shortages, Sony will only have 80,000 PS3 units ready for Japanese launch instead of the originally planned 100,000 units. That’s a 20% cut. First the European launch gets delayed because of production issues, now the Japanese launch availability is crippled even more than it previously was.

No word yet if the shortage will effect North American units but, if proportional, they could be cut by 380,000 systems.  The PS2 sold out of almost a million units when launched back in March of 2000.

Meanwhile, a new report coming out of the financial services company UBS (available at Briefing.com—paid subscription required) analyzes the number of Wii consoles that have been manufactured prior to launch and pegs the figure at 2 million. In addition, the report states that at least 7 million and potentially as many as 9 million consoles are in the production pipeline and will be ready by year-end. This represents an increase from Nintendo’s publicly-announced target of 6 million Wii consoles by the end of the year.

So let’s review what this means for the holiday shopper:

  • PS3 – production problems, really expensive, FUGETABOUDIT! Your not gonna get one.
  • Wii – Pretty good inventory, cool interface make it more of an experience, reasonable price tag.

Nintendo looks like the clear winner to me.

Social Gaming: Perplex City

Karl Long at ExperienceCurve posted a note about a company called Mind Candy whose chief product is an online game called Perplex City. Seems that the company just received $7 Million in funding, but Karl said the big story was the “multi-media” platform for this game. I had never heard of it, so I checked it out. WOW!

Perplex City is a puzzle-based “Alternate Reality Game”. It’s a virtual place, an ongoing story, a game, and real-life, and a global treasure hunt played simultaneously by tens of thousands of people around the world, all rolled into one. As for the “multi-media”platform; how about podcasts, internet video, TV, live events, websites, text messages, print, blogs, physical “puzzlecards”, a boardgame, and probably some more stuff that I haven’t yet discovered. This thing’s got more channels going that ABC’s “Lost”.

Humans are social by nature so the Social Media phenomenon is a natural outcome of a world flattened by hyper-connectivity. In gaming, I expect we will begin to see more and more of this type of thing displacing disconnected, individual gameplay. It’s only natural. Oh, and the $200K ain’t a bad incentive:-)

Battery Recalls Cost Sony More Than Money


Sony’s PS3 isn’t launched yet, but it has already cost the company $366 million. That was expected and not uncommon when launching a new hardware platform. What Sony didn’t foreseen, however, was the massive battery recall that ended up costing them a whopping $429 million and sent their bottom line screaming into the basement. Practically every laptop maker in the world has recalled Sony’s lithium-ion batteries due to their unfortunate (though rare) habit of overheating and bursting into flames.

While Sony’s decision to reduce the number of PSPs shipped in fiscal 2006 makes a certain amount of sense in light of this financial news, its decision to lower the cost of the PS3 in Japan by 20% is curious. Such a slash will reduce what little profit the company was going to make on the hardware that would have almost certainly sold out at the full asking price.
The cost to Sony’s profits is obvious, but the more subtle damage was done to the company’s image as a mainstay of consumer technology.

Virtual Worlds as Innovation Labs

Reebok store in Second LifeAt the risk of going into Second Life overload this week, I would like to call your attention to Bruce Nussbaum’s Business Week Online blog posting today entitled “Second Life, MySpace, YouTube–It’s All About Mining Intentionality“. 

I have frequently commented that SecondLife offers a unique stage for prototyping, testing and innovation.  American Apparel is doing it.  So is Adidas, Reebok, Starwood Hotels, Scion, and others.  Mr. Nussbaum’s piece really drives the point home describing the opportunity as “mining intentionality”. 

It’s about intention, what people intend to do if given the possibility. Intentionality is part of the ethnography space, part of that unmet needs thing. My guess is that every company, every organization will want to be in Second Life to get at, to mine, this intentionality, as a basis for developing new products and services.

That’s what I’m talking about!!!

DVD Jon, DoubleTwist crack Apple’s FairPlay

Jon Johansen (a.k.a. DVD Jon), the 20-something hacker widely known for helping crack the piracy protections on DVDs several years ago, is taking on Apple Computer again. He has reverse-engineered Apple’s FairPlay, the digital rights management technology used to make iPod and iTunes a closed system.

He has started DoubleTwist Ventures to license the technology which will make other online music stores work with Apple’s iPod device and let iTunes songs play on gadgets other than the iPod.

In an interview with ZDNet, Monique Farantzos, Johansen’s business associate and DoubleTwist co-founder provides details on the company, the technology.  It’s easy to understand why the start-up has been profitable since day one:

When you buy a DVD, you know that the DVD will play on your Toshiba or Sony or Philips player, but when you buy music or video online, you don’t have that. It is kind of like the zoo: Every animal is singing a different tune. We hope to make sense of that, and we have developed a technology to enable that.

No matter how much you wall in your garden, people will find a way to make things simpler.

Are Virtual Worlds the Next Big Thing?

The Internet, at least as experienced by most users, feels as if it has at last plateaued. This is an illusion. Forces are coalescing that will produce a shift comparable at least to the spread of broadband. This change will have enormous financial, cultural and political repercussions”.

This is the view of TCS Daily columnist Patrick Cox in a fascinating article published earlier this week. The “change” that Mr. Cox envisions will be the transition to, and large-scale participation in Virtual Worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft. He sets the stage for his argument against those who would dismiss the idea through a detailed description of the early days of the Internet. For those who are not aware of the ancient history of the mid-1990’s, Netscape Communication’s Navigator browser was the disruption that would open up the Internet for John Q. Public:

For the first time, especially when Netscape added the ability to easily put content on the Web, anybody could publish and anybody could access. The metaphorical walls fell and the Web was truly born. For the first time, the Internet was one place, accessible to anybody, and the astonishing transformation began.

Cox goes on to describe the vectors that are converging which he believes will take Virtual Worlds into the mainstream. Specifically, he cites:

  1. The benefits of 3D space over 2D space
  2. The world of gaming as the frontier of 3D Virtual Worlds. Cox points out that the social interaction aspects of today’s VR environments are more appealing to younger game players who have grown up in an IM, MySpace world.
  3. The profit potential for companies who are early to market with 3D Virtual Worlds (World of Warcraft figures are cited).
  4. The early adoption by Koreans who are always way out in front in terms of technology adoption.
  5. The entry of Hollywood into MMOs based on movie titles. Cox cites a nearly one-to-one correlation between the dropoff in young male movie attendance and the gains in MMO participation.

None of these things are disruptive, but they do prime the pump for something that is. That something is a company called Multiverse and, not coincidentally, it’s made up of a team of core developers from Netscape’s early days. What they are developing is equivalent of a virtual world browser for MMOs.

Their plan is to provide virtual world creators the client, server, and development tools to create an MMO world. The entire technology platform is free for non-commercial use, so academics are paying nothing to create economic, architectural, sociological and other simulations. For-profit enterprises would pay royalties, but only when their games or other applications collect money from consumers, not before.

This is significant because, until now, creating a complex virtual world required tens of millions of dollars in initial development costs alone. The Multiverse technology, currently in beta-testing, claims to lower the cost of virtual world production to a fraction of its current stratospheric level. For many purposes, such as personal online spaces, there would be no cost at all.

Most importantly, however, all these Multiverse-based worlds, and many are already in development, would be compatible. With the Multiverse client software, users will be able to access any virtual world built using the company’s technology. Virtual worlds will become, in effect, ubiquitous. The Metaverse.

The company is headed by same entrepreneur responsible for Netscape’s Navigator: Bill Turpin. His team includes Netscape veterans Rafhael Cedeno and Robin McCollum, who built critical Netscape server technology still in use today, and co-creators of RSS; Jeff Weinstein, who coded the world-changing SSL; and Corey Bridges, Navigator product manager who then went on to launch companies like Netflix and Zone Labs. On the entertainment side, film director/producer James Cameron, of Terminator and Titanic fame, has thrown his lot in with Multiverse, joining its board of advisors.

Some folks commenting on Cox’s story have pointed out errors and omissions in the historical overview, but that doesn’t change the overall hypothesis. I personally think he has it right. What do you think??

Sony recalls 340,000 batteries in second wave

AAARRRGGGHHH!  Seems like bad news is the only thing Sony can produce on schedule. 

<reblogged from Engadget>

Sorry to kick y’all laptop owners when you’re down, but Sony announced that it’s initiating another recall of 340,000 batteries, this time adding Gateway to the list of the affected, in addition to already-affected Fujitsu, Toshiba, and its own batteries. (It’s not immediately apparent if this also includes the 300,000 batteries of their own that they recalled earlier this month.) There are a ton of models being recalled for each company, so we’d ask you visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission for full details; also, if you haven’t already checked your battery, please note the following companies are now initiating recalls:

Kind of scary, but at this rate it’s probably just safest to assume that no matter what your notebook, your battery is or will be recalled — so be wary, and keep an eye out for battery recall pages.

Crayon Launches Virtual Agency in Second Island

crayon.jpgSo we have had Real World businesses set up shop in the Virtual World and we have had Virtual World products migrate to the Real World, but no matter where you operate, you need marketing. Joseph Jaffe (www.jaffejuice.com) has set up a new company that will focus on social media marketing. The interesting thing is that the agency will be headquartered in SecondLife.

Read more at Joe’s blog:

Second Life Travel Guide

So you’ve decided to take a trip to Second Life. Good choice! Whether you’re coming for the uninhibited nightlife or the affordable jetpacks and rocket ships, you’re sure to have a memorable stay. Don’t bother with a suitcase – everything you could possibly want is obtainable here. But be sure to bring your imagination: Second Life is a world of endless reinvention where you can change your shape, your sex, even your species as easily as you might slip into a pair of shoes back home.

To help you navigate this new frontier, Wired has published a pretty good travel guide in their latest issue.

Check it out here.

Install Vista, Buy Graphics Card

Microsoft and Intel have always had a symbiotic relationship, with each new OS release requiring additional processing power. Wired is reporting that you will need a stand-alone graphics card, usually reserved for the gamer set, in order to take full advantage of Vista’s graphics capabilities for the most graphics-rich version of Vista, or Aero, on what Microsoft calls “Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs.”

Officially, you can run a stripped-down version of Vista without a video card in a PC or a stand-alone graphics processor in a laptop — but you might not want to.

“To realize the charm and brilliance of Vista, the user has to have a decent graphics card, because otherwise it looks like crap: It is all washed up and the colors look bad,” said Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research.

According to Microsoft, the minimum PC configuration just to run Vista is an 800-MHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM and an integrated graphics processor that can handle Microsoft’s DirectX 9 graphical interface. For a PC that is Windows Aero ready, the requirements are more stringent. A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC for Windows Aero needs at least a 1-GHz CPU, 1 GB of RAM, DirectX 9 graphics, 128 MB of graphics memory and pixel shader 2.0, which means an external graphics card or processor is almost invariably required.

Read the Wired article here

Hand On the Zune

The old gamers at 2old2play got their arthritic hands on the Zune and offer a full report. The most important detail?

The top of the Zune had a clear glass layer while the exterior had a tactile feel to it, nothing like the hard metal and plastic of the iPod devices. The ‘skin’ of the Zune was a ‘rubberized’ material that had a smooth seductive feel to it. I found myself unable to stop stroking the device, so much that the demo assistant asked me to put it down.

Read the detailed review here: Hands On The Zune [2old2play]

Hollywood Insiders Second Guessing Blu-ray Support

A recent Variety article new window entitled “Pandora’s black box” examines Sony’s PS3/Blu-ray strategy and how, with their seemingly never-ending setback, the movie studios that signed up for the Blu-ray format are feeling a little uneasy.

Despite its many uses, industryites agree that the PS3 will sell primarily on its core vidgaming capabilities.

“PS3 is first and foremost about games,” states Kaz Hirai, head of Sony’s U.S. vidgame division. “That really is the entry point for the majority of people. Oh, and by the way, they’ll get a great Blu-ray player. It’s an excellent by-product.”

That “Trojan horse” strategy is what persuaded many studios to jump aboard Blu-ray, figuring that PS3 sales would put Blu-ray in tens of millions of homes where someone loves to play vidgames.

While some of those studios are taking a wait-and-see approach on the impact of PS3, others are already starting to feel burned by the delays and pricing concerns. “PS3 was a huge deal in our coming aboard Blu-ray,” confirms one top home entertainment exec. “I’m not sure we would have signed on if we had known then what we know now.

No matter how many stand-alone HD DVD or Blu-ray players are sold within the next 12 months, its likely (barring any other unforeseen delays) those sales will be dwarfed by the PS3, so from a pure numbers perspective I can see the allure. Unfortunately for the studios, this may prove completely irrelevant within a few short months. Embedding a Blu-ray player in the PS3 does not mean PS3 owners will be Blu-ray movie buyers.

The HD DVD camp is not sitting still either. Toshiba is moving on to it’s second generation HD DVD player after selling through 70k units of its original line. Add to this unannounced HD DVD players from other manufacturers and the up-coming Xbox 360 HD DVD player and it becomes apparent that dedicated, stand-alone HD DVD playback devices may very well eclipse the insert-number-here of PS3 owners who purchase Blu-ray movies. That insert-number-here figure really is the big unknown and will likely remain so for several months after the PS3’s launch.

The big question is, when do we get back to the business of authoring titles and selling HD disc players in one format and one format only? This is what’s needed to assure the consumer at large their not about to buy into the wrong format. Enter Nielsen’s Video Scan.

On October 12th Nielsen’s VideoScan numbers for the month of August new window alone, revealed that HD DVD movies outsold all other high definition formats by a factor of nearly three to one. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road folks, VideoScan numbers don’t lie, those numbers are sales not shipments and will factor heavily in future studio support decisions.

So will we see a reversal of this 3:1 margin in favor of Blu-ray, in the months following the PS3’s launch on November 17th? That’s hard to say in all honesty, in a vacuum yes 500K+ players would obviously create an up-surge in Blu-ray sales but of course the format war doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

The new Toshiba players, along with the Xbox add-on will put HD DVD into insert-number-here additional homes and from there who knows where this will go. Two things are certain: HD DVD has established a “beachhead” and the format war will keep most consumers on the sideline for the foreseeable future.

Sony’s Blu-ray Player Delayed Yet Again

Sony’s BDP-S1 has been delayed, again, three times to be exact. (at least that’s my count) Originally scheduled for release on August 15th the player was then bumped back to October 25th and now SonyStyle.com states new window “Targeted Availability: On or about December 4, 2006”.What is it about this player that’s causing the delays? Could it be the blue laser diode shortages caused by Sony gobbling up every blue laser diode they can get their hands on for the PS3? Well according to Andy Parsons new window of Pioneer “player manufacturers are unlikely to be affected by a blue diode shortage because they are manufacturing far fewer units compared to the millions of PS3s Sony is producing.”

So that must not be it… or maybe it is, as Pioneer’s oft delayed BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player is rumored to have been postponed until January, although select dealers are expecting demo units to arrive shortly. This would seem to indicate the player is complete but a shortage of some key-part is holding up mass production.

So it looks like Samsung’s BD-P1000 and Panasonic’s DMP-BD10 ($1299) may very well remain the only stand-alone Blu-ray players available throughout the holiday season 2006. Philips and Sharp announced players for the “third quarter of 2006” and “fourth quarter 2006” respectively, but we’ve yet to see any firm launch dates for either of those players.

<via HomeTheater Blog>