Those other two consoles can stream Netflix sans disc

Wii Netflix.Late last week, news broke that PS3 users could finally do what Xbox 360 users had been doing for some time: stream movies without the help of a pesky disc. Now the same is true for Wii users. So long as you have an $8.99 or higher Netflix plan, you can enjoy unlimited streaming without a disc in the drive.

From the Wii press release:

Beginning today, Netflix members in the United States and Canada can stream content through their Wii™ consoles with Netflix installed on their Wii Menu. The Netflix disc that was used for instant streaming on the Wii console will no longer be required. Netflix members who have a plan starting at $8.99 a month ($7.99 in Canada), a Wii console and a broadband Internet connection can now instantly watch movies and TV shows streamed directly to their TVs by simply downloading Netflix from the Wii Shop Channel. This new channel is available at no extra cost. The new disc-free option installs Netflix on the Wii Menu, making it convenient for Wii owners to quickly access streaming movies and TV shows.

I don’t really know why this took so long, or why PS3 and Wii users needed a disc in the first place, but it’s nice to see that it has finally been fixed.


Sony Could Be In Serious Trouble

Bobby Kotick ready to axe Sony.When you’ve taken a company from $10 million yearly revenues to nearly $200 million quarterly revenues, you can pretty much say what you want. If your new company also happens to be worth some $16 billion, you can also say those things to whomever you like, even if it happens to be Sony.

That’s exactly what’s happening between Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard’s President and CEO (that would be the $16 billion company), and Sony. Kotick has apparently been frustrated with the fees Sony charges for what he thinks may be a dying platform.

“I’m getting concerned about Sony; the PlayStation 3 is losing a bit of momentum and they don’t make it easy for me to support the platform. It’s expensive to develop for the console, and the Wii and the Xbox are just selling better. Games generate a better return on invested capital on the Xbox than on the PlayStation,” Kotick says. “When we look at 2010 and 2011, we might want to consider if we support [PS3 and PSP].”

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s next year. As in, six months from now. And if Activision sees fit to pull the plug, who’s next? Other developers have voiced issue with Sony licensing fees and the difficulties of developing on their hardware. Would EA see fit to cut ties?

As compelling a case as Kotick might put together, he seems a bit blind when it comes to ideas for saving Sony. In this same interview, Mr. Kotick suggests Sony consider things like the upcoming skateboard controller for a new Tony Hawk title. Are peripherals really what’s slowing the company? I could be wrong here, but how does adding a peripheral, which will probably be available on the other two consoles, help PS3 sales? How does that cut back the fees Kotick so loathes? And what of development? PS3 will still cost more per title for the same game, so where’s the benefit?

In running Sony into the ground is my guess. Kotick’s suggestion leads one direction – further marginalization of the PS3. If they keep releasing the same games and the same peripherals as everyone else, they’ll keep getting beat, for all the reasons Kotick cites early on. Then he doesn’t have to make the tough decision because every developer would leave with him.

For now you can rest assured Activision is still making plenty of money off Sony, but I’d bet other developers share some of Kotick’s thoughts, if not his fervor for making them public. Will Sony respond, or is Kotick just a blowhard? Sound off in the comments.


Sony Still Losing Money on PS3 Sales

PS3.According to Sony CFO Nobuyuki Oneda, the cost of Sony’s Playstation 3 is still 10% higher than the price. In the US that means Sony is losing $40 on every PS3 they sell. It’s certainly no secret that consoles typically follow this pricing pattern on launch, but to still be losing after two and a half years is surprising.

Of course things could be worse. Just a year ago the cost-to-price ratio was an estimated $100 loss per system. Then again, the PS2 did just sell more units than the PS3 last month as a result of a PS2 price drop. Rumors suggest a similar cut could be coming to the PS3 which would set the cost-to-price rift back up to serious levels. So maybe things couldn’t be a whole lot worse. Hopefully Sony has something big in store for E3.


The Next Next-Gen Starts in 2013 – Who’s Ready?

The Next Next-Gen War?This spring’s console sales decline has plenty of people (including myself) wondering when the next generation is coming. According to Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter, we’re going to be waiting a while. Pachter thinks we won’t see new hardware until 2013 at the earliest, citing profit margins that have yet to catch up to manufacturer’s expectations.

The good news is extended console life-cycles mean more time for developers to learn each generation’s ticks and tricks. The bad news? Developers are left guessing just as much as we are. Ubisoft’s CEO is recommending everyone start beefing up, investing in new blood and new toys to handle the next generation now. Nothing pays like preparation, but four years of it? Four years that could be spent making new games? Better games?

This is the paradox that makes me rub my temples. I still think games could be better, and much better. They could certainly look better, which means better hardware, or possibly more intelligent use of the current hardware. Of course, games could also play better, have more intuitive control schemes, more immersive gameplay, which means more time for developers to learn the hardware and adapt to its possibilities/limitations.

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Next Gen Console Sales Decline in March

Next Gen ConsolesMarch saw a surprising decline in sales of video game hardware and software, despite hardware growth over last year for the Xbox 360. The Nintendo Wii is still the most coveted hardware on the market, but even Nintendo’s cash cow was struggling.

At first I was a little surprised, but as far as life cycle goes, the current generation of consoles is heading toward a mid-life crisis. There are certainly enough peripherals now to extend the life of any console, but as games like Resident Evil 5 show, developers seem to have caught up with the hardware, producing games that can start to truly tax the machines we love.

My question, then, is who goes first? Sony, whose PS3 is looking like the Gamecube of last generation, could desperately use some new life. And though the Wii is still selling out of…everywhere, there could definitely be improvements on graphics and game design. As for the 360, well, do you really want to see the next Bungie App on the same console?