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Region-free PS3 356

An anonymous reader writes "IGN writes that "In a QA session following the platform keynote address at GDC 2006 this morning, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President Phil Harrison confirmed what was heavily demanded for import gamers all over the world and yet previously thought unthinkable for a major corporation: the PS3 will be region-free for gaming." There's no chance that the MPAA members would allow the same for movies but at least it's a step in the right direction."
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Region-free PS3

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  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:22AM (#14980029) Journal
    After the rootkit fiasco, it's starting to sound like Sony is trying to be more consumer friendly. With this, and the no downsampling Blu-Ray analogue output, I might actually consider buying things made by Sony.
  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:26AM (#14980050) Journal
    The surprising thing for us in the UK though is that we may start getting charged a similar price to what you pay in the US.

    We have long been known in the UK for our willingness to pay higher prices, maybe this will start to change if more companies adopted a similar attitude. Personally I do wish the MPAA would follow this example and allow music and dvds to be sold at american prices the world over.
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:27AM (#14980056)
    Well the backup excuse could be done away with if the HD was able to cache game content so you didn't need the disc in the drive to play it. How to stop people playing copies this way? Make them enter a registration code. Every so often it sends the code off to Sony. If more than one PS3 is found to have used the game with the same code, it challenges you to insert the disc to continue. Since this will affect few people, it makes HD gaming virtually transparent while allowing the original disc to stay in the keepcase.
  • Re:Here's hoping (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:30AM (#14980071)
    Unlike videogames, the movie producers need to work with distributors around the world (theater owners, etc.). Region coding makes sense for movies because they have staggered release schedules. A foreign theater chain is not going to be happy if a movie for which theatrical display rights are not yet available in that country is suddenly available on an HD videodisc. Videogames obviously don't have these issues.

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki.cox@net> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:33AM (#14980089)
    AFAIK, Ken Kutaragi once told the Sony board to take content control and shove it.

    But I can't find the source so...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:42AM (#14980145)
    Japan also has 810P as well. There are other "weird" HD formats circling around that would also need to be taken care of. North American HD is not the same HD everywhere for that very reason. Different resolutions, refresh rates, etc. makes this hell for a manufacturer. The biggest problem is that TV display equipment is not like computer monitors where they can switch around resolutions and refresh rates as necessary unless the device is designed for it. Although I don't think Sony will have much problem with this because these days most of the output circuitry/firmware will be given a certain set of allowable resolutions for each region. The only item to worry about then is whether the game will support the resolution and if it won't, then the Playstation should be able to up/down-sample the data for output.
  • by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:08AM (#14980309)
    Um buying a modchip isnt illegal...selling them is
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:25AM (#14980435)
    I don't think I could have picked a less popular subject, however...

    You don't get to make a backup of books, art, or other physical media that is non-electronic... Back when it was easy to have your electronic media easily destroyed at no fault to you, a backup exemption made sense. We no longer live in the age of VCRs eating tapes though, and on the rediculously rare (relative to tape eating) chance that your device does damage your disc, the player manufacturer should be responsible for procuring you a replacement. If, however, you roll over your favorite video game CD with your office chair (not I know anybody who has ever done that...), why should you have more right to a replacement than the guy who had his paperback fall out of his jacket pocket into the toilet on a bus (not that... well, you know)?

    DRM should never prevent you from doing something with your media that would have otherwise been legal under copyright law, but I'm not convinced that there is a good reason for the law to allow backups.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:02PM (#14984225)
    you certainly can make backups of nonelectronic media. It's harder (photocopying a book, for example, takes time and the result isn't ideal) but it can be done. Lots of people will photocopy part of a topo map before going hiking; a copy of just the section you need is easy to carry, and it doesn't matter if it is destroyed.

    Electronic media is _very_ easy to damage. Downloadable files go *poof* if a hard disk fails, or virus hits. Old media is difficult to access - who has a 5.25" floppy drive anymore? DVDs scratch easily if viewed often; while some people seem to take cleanroom-like precautions to keep their CDs safe, others like to take them in the car. Covertibles are particularly tough on discs, since you get lots of wind and dust everywhere. Writeable CDs do seem to degrade over time (though only amateur-produced music or custom software is issued as such). And while it takes a great deal of effort to render a paperback book completely unusable, a single incorrect byte can cause the greatest of computer programs to fail completely.

    You may argue that it's not in the public interest to prevent backups. The point of IP law is to improve the public good by encouraging the creation of books, art, music, etc. To that extent, the author is given some exclusive rights, which are more than adequate. It's important to remember that for good reason this is an entirely different set of laws from physical property - the rules can be whatever we mutually choose. The converse question is why publishers should have a revenue stream from replacing defective copies. Forbidding backups creates a perverse incentive for publishers to make defective media - the sooner it fails, the more likely it will be repurchased. That doesn't benefit society.

    All things being equal, should a family repurchase a "delicate" copy of "Finding Nemo" seven times at $2 per disc because it keeps breaking, buy a copy for $11 and get replacement disks for $0.50 each from the publisher, or purchase one copy at $14 and back it up themselves? Does it make a difference?

    I'd argue it makes more sense to "decouple" the information product (movie) from the physical product. Then, the initial purchase cost pays for the price of the information, and one physical disk. Every time the disk is damaged, you only pay the incremental cost of replacing the physical disk (cost of a new DVD/RW). You could ask the publisher to replace the disk at-cost, but what's the point? You might as well let the customer be responsible for his own backups. Decoupling the medium and the information also lets you say "the information isn't defective; it's just fine. it's the storage medium that's defective - just replace that" in the same sense that you replace the broken parts of a machine rather than the whole thing.

    But I would ask, why not backup? If in doubt, why not allow the end user a bit more freedom? How would forbidding backups improve the progress of "the Useful Arts and Sciences", or make society better off? Is there someone who said, "I was going to write the Great American Novel today, but I'm afraid people will make backup copies"? And is it enough for copyright law to try to get more works out in the marketplace, or should we also keep in mind how those works may be used and enjoyed?
  • by zenhkim ( 962487 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:58AM (#14985875) Journal
    I'd say this: you obviously don't wrestle with corporate management critters.

    Corporations are always looking to get more money while slashing costs every which way. It's the reason that companies change the packaging so you end up buying slightly less product at the same price, replace live customer service reps with "automated phone menu systems", shut down factories and lay off masses of workers when the books still show a healthy profit, and apply for -- and receive -- goverment subsidies for business (read: welfare for the rich).

    I remember working part-time at Radio Shack (when it was still somewhat tech-friendly, not the bad joke it is now) and one of our regular customers was an engineer at a local computer manufacturer. His job was to troubleshoot RFI (radio frequency interference) problems in the hardware so that the FCC wouldn't red flag a piece of equipment, so you'd think his bosses would do their best to allow him to get things done, right?


    As he described it to me, work was a constant battle with supervisors, project team leaders, department managers, etc. to *let him fix problems*! He'd identify an RFI problem, come up with a solution that involved a cheap (maybe 5-cent) part, submit his proposal ...only to have it rejected time and time again! The higher-ups didn't want solutions that involved increasing production costs, no matter how necessary they were. "It's like pulling teeth," he once said. "They'll cut corners everywhere until they turn a square into a circle."

    The sad fact is, this is business as usual. At Radio Shack, I saw our rock-solid Tandy machines phased out in favor of Packard-Bell brand PCs, and we quickly found out how flaky those damn things were. I swore that they were the worst designed, misengineered pieces of crap I had ever had the displeasure of dealing with ...until (much later) eMachines came along. Those things didn't even deserve to be called computers: they should have been labelled "Crash And Burn Machine -- Use At Your Own Risk". The power supply would burn out in a matter of months, and your expansion options for one of those systems were pathetic. Oh, and did I mention that the CPUs in some of those eMachines *didn't* have a proper cooling unit? Instead, they'd have just a heatsink with one of those plastic "ducts" that led to the power supply -- hope the internal fan doesn't choke on you!

    What really takes the cake is that, some years after that, I was asked by a coworker to troubleshoot her Compaq. It seemed that her system was plagued with problems, and she heard that I was reasonably familiar with "those computer things." When I came over to her house to check it out, I was in for a shock: here was a Compaq machine, sporting a brand name I respected, which looked inside and out like another wretched eMachine! Puny, claustrophobic case, brain-damaged motherboard with a scarcity of expansion slots, a way-underrated power supply (180W, as I recall) and -- you guessed it -- no cooling fan on the processor! It was horrifying, and when I explained to my coworker all the design flaws and cost-cutting measures in her PC she was not very pleased, either.

    I can't stress this enough: corporations do not care about anything -- product quality, popular concern, public safety -- if it interferes with the bottom line! Even ethics and law don't matter, if a company thinks it can get away with lying and stealing ...or is that advertising and acquisition? So what's the point of "letting the market decide" an important social and economic issue if the corporations habitually manipulate and deceive everyone?

    If you still want to play the apologist for corporations, fine. You've got your opinion, and you can have it ...all to yourself. As a wise man once said to me, however, "Opinions are like butts. Everyone's got one."

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine