Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Canada Will Not Become A Nation of 'Cord Cutters'

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The biggest trend in the United States after the rise of Online video sites Netflix and Hulu, thousands have left their cable, satellite and telco subscription television services behind.  Video game consoles and devices such as Rockzz and Boxee box have moved online video from the computer to the living room TV. 

As much as Canadians love to complain about Cable, satellite and telephone companies, canuck couch potatoes North of the 49th will not be quite so willing to follow their American counterparts who have left a traditional cable or satellite to watch Internet video exclusively. 

Firstly Canadians don't have as many online video sources that are available stateside.   Netflix one of the Internet's largest providers of movies and TV shows has been in Canada for just a few months.  The selection available from netflix in Canada is just a fraction of what Netflix offers in the United States.  The Internet's other alternative to network programming that specializes in delivering network programming online is still a forbidden fruit in Canada. 

The biggest thorn in the side of all potential Canadian cord cutters is the current over usage based billing, where ISP's want to have through right to charge high bandwidth users (such as people watching HD programming from online sources).  It doesn't help when the major broadband providers also are the cable and telephone companies that see services such as Netflix as a threat to the subscription television services they sell already. 

One additional factor that is making cord cutting unattractive to Canadians is the lackluster commitment to high definition broadcasting on the part of Canada's broadcast networks.  HD programming over the air is only available in about half a dozen markets.  This is sure to improve after the deadline to switch to digital broadcasting on August 31st.  Two of Canada's broadcast networks are owned by a cable company and a telephone company, there is a vested interest to keep over the air viewers watching snowy analog pictures.

The cord cutting trend is freeing people from the few large companies that control media and telecommunications.  The problem in Canada is that these companies has so much control that it is practically impossible to experience the freedom to watch what you want to watch not what cable, satellite or telephone company will let you watch.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Should App Store Games Need ESRB Ratings?

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In just a couple of years Apple's app store grew to 300,000 programs, the most popular category is the games.  Most of the games are created by people on their computers coding away, the major publishers such as Electronic Arts and Activision have versions of their most popular games for the home consoles and portable systems available for purchase on the App store that can be played on any iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This has made Apple the third giant of handheld gaming.

All the games are easily accessible, but maybe a little too accessible, and that can be a problem for parents who are looking to keep inappropriate games away from younger players. Parents have had the ratings system put in place and administrated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to help parents make good choices about which games for home console, handheld systems and computer are appropriate for their children to play.  Games on the App store do not carry ESRB ratings, which does not give parents any kind of guidelines about the contents of App store games.

Reviewing and rating all the games on the App store by ESRB may be a task too big to be realistic, however when major franchise games from the big publishers such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed can be downloaded without any sort of age restriction, that's something that will need to be addressed and soon. While a credit card is required to set up an iTunes account, all games, apps and songs can downloaded with pre-paid cards regardless of content.

If Apple wants to be a player in the video game industry then they will have to demand ESRB ratings from the Major game publishers.  If not, game publishers as well as Apple itself can and will facing the legal reprisal from jurisdictions that mandate by law restricting the sales of games that carry the Mature rating to those over the age of seventeen.