Physical media in the PC gaming sector is nearly dead
Think for a moment about the last 10 PC games you purchased. If the statistics presented by analyst DFC Intelligence are correct, than at least nine of those games were digitally downloaded as opposed to physical copies. Long gone are the days when you'd walk into Software Etc. and emerge with a bag full of game boxes containing floppy disks, and later CDs. According to DFI Intelligence, 92 percent of all PC game sales around the world in 2013 were digital.
Any research firm that tallies game sales but neglects to include digital copies isn't really painting a full picture of the landscape. That's less of a problem these days than it was a few years ago, and to put the impact of digital sales into perspective, market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts digital PC and Mac game revenue will exceed $24 billion by 2017.
The Fujifilm X20 proves that compact digicams aren’t dead yet
Why buy a compact digital camera these days when every smartphone and tablet has a built-in camera? Amateurs and even some professionals are making impressive pictures with phonecams. Phones are almost always handy, and downloadable apps make them infinitely customizable. Just as digital cameras have all but killed film, now phonecams threaten to kill digital cameras—or at least the compact digicams, leaving DSLRs alive for those occasions when nothing but the best will do.
Walmart's disc-to-digital in-home service will "convert" your existing movie collection to UltraViolet digital copies starting at $2 a pop.
It's not just tablet makers and hardware manufacturers in general making a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Retailers have joined the party, including Walmart, which used the annual convention to announce that it's expanding its in-store Disc-to-Digital service to allow for the same service from the comfort of your home. As an aside, Wally World also launched a new Facebook app that provides access to exclusive movie content and allows users to decide what movies are sold in-store and online.
To those of you who have been clutching your various gadgets to your chests and bemoaning the lack of a digital version of your favorite publication - Maximum PC, of course: wait no longer, the day has come!
Back in 1977, when Apple had a II beside it (instead of a bunch of dollar signs) and everyone’s favorite PET was a Commodore, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration took a bold step, one that rivals the more famous ‘one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind’. With the launch of Voyager II and then Voyager I, yes, in that order, NASA sent more than a bit of our world off into space on a journey that may last forever.
A group, headed by Carl Sagan, put together a special package in the form of a Golden Record, which was sent off with each of the two Voyager spacecraft in the hopes that it might be intercepted by some type of being, hopefully both intelligent and peaceful. Included on each super LP were ninety minutes of music, over a hundred images, and greetings in fifty-five languages. It seems there was also an hour long recording of Sagan’s wife’s brainwaves included on the record as well. Take a brief moment to appreciate what it must have taken to fit all of this on one side of a twelve inch disk.
Off the packages went into space, cruising along at around sixty thousand kilometers per hour. Although they have long since passed the edge of our solar system, it will be forty thousand years before they come close to any stars. Even then they will be more than one and a half light years away from the ones nearest to them. Believe it or not, NASA is still in contact with the Voyagers and probably will continue monitoring them until about 2025. Only NASA could find and fund a battery that will last fifty years.
It’s not very often that one sees one’s life posted on one of the larger news/technology aggregates/communities/linkdumps on the web. But there I sat the other day, idly browsing the web the other day, when up came a chat window from Future US co-star Andy Salisbury. Andy, as it turns out, had stumbled across a rather interesting picture in Reddit’s submission queue and was curious to know if I had any further details to share.
I clicked the link without really thinking much about what could lie beneath. And you can thus imagine my surprise in discovering that I was basically staring at the back of my car. Yes, my car. Somebody had taken a picture of my (extremely clever and/or witty) license plate and uploaded it for the world to see. The votes on Reddit were slowly a-climbing and, based on a quick scan of the third-party that was actually hosting the image in question, roughly 10,000 people or so had already checked out my car’s butt.
Well, physical game discs, it was a good game. You fought hard and had a nice, long reign, but now you’re relics -- destined to be excavated millennia from now and presented as evidence of our time period’s ingenious developments in Frisbee technology. Hear that? That’s the fat lady singing. She’s belting along to the tune of 11.2 million units, which is how many the digital market moved during the first half of 2010. Retail, meanwhile, went down swinging with 8.2 million.
Note, however, that NPD – who presented the report – doesn’t have access to Steam or Blizzard’s sales data. Instead, "weighted and projected" surveys provided a portion of the data, which were – at the very least – accurate in so far as Steam came in first by so many thousands of miles that most of its competitors were technically on another planet.
Direct2Drive, EA, Worldofwarcraft.com, and Blizzard.com rounded out the top five, which sounds about right to us, although we’d still like to see some hard numbers to back it up. Overall, however, NPD saw a 21 percent decline in traditional PC game sales, the blame for which it placed squarely on the shoulders of the already massive casual and free-to-play games market.
So basically, the PC gaming market is like an incredibly unstable dictatorship. One day, someone’s on top, but the next, they’re mysteriously found dead – the cause of death being a far less mysterious knife between their ribs. Then someone else takes over, and the cycle begins anew. Word is, they’re already making an HBO drama about it. And by “word,” we mean we’ve got a cheapo video camera and are willing to pay in whatever you can steal while our roommates aren’t looking.
The column before last, I wrote about vinyl records and how amazing the technology for analog sound really is—because you’re fighting the obstinacy of the physical universe throughout the whole signal path.
During the seventies and well into the eighties, I invested quite a bit of time and money into my own sound system and I remember fondly playing with all kinds of electronic devices designed to remove clicks and pops, minimize tape hiss, expand musical peaks for more dynamic impact, and even add an extra octave of bass at the bottom. I also added an equalizer to compensate for sonic peaks and valleys in my living room.
Bob Carver’s Sonic Hologram did a kind of electronic signal-cancelling, so you wouldn’t hear the left speaker at your right ear, nor the right speaker at your left ear. That was a pretty astonishing effect, which has since evolved into all kinds of digital ‘spatializer’ enhancements. You could also add two speakers at the back of your listening room to extract out-of-phase information from the stereo signal and give yourself a quadraphonic experience.
A lot of the various equalizers and signal-processors were extraordinary devices for the time, genuinely pushing the envelope of sonic manipulation and enhancement. And remember, all of this was done in the analog domain. Occasionally, I still see some of these devices showing up as techno-props on crime-investigation TV episodes where some nerdy-genius forensic expert is magically extracting a remarkably clear audio signal from an overwhelming hash of noise. (If only….)