Ok, I broke my promise to myself and did a political thing for both Christmas and New Year’s. There were seasonal issues I felt had to be looked at. So here’s something different.
Home Video Game Units
You may be wondering: “why just those two? Didn’t the CD-I have its own video format?” Well, yes, but it also played generic video cd’s, and the CD-I video format itself was actually just an MPEG file with the file extension changed to something else. I think it said “.DAT” instead of “.MPEG”. Copying it onto my laptop and relabelling it would give me access to the video if my CD-I were not around, which is like half the time because I have one of the gigantic models and I am not lugging that thing up and down the East Coast!
But since I brought it up, and since it’s a precursor to our modern consoles that double as home video players, I’ll just note that as far as I could tell the CD-I videos looked exactly like VHS tapes, but without a sort of haze subtly graying things out a little. While the image is sharper in that regard, you also get some artifacting in there.
While CD-I was on the maybe pile because of its early CD-I exclusive format that was only exclusive because they changed a filename on the disc otherwise it’d work in any VCD player, there are some units definitely in the “not at all” pile for this post. That’d be things like the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube (Panasonic Q to be specific), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. While these play DVDs and Blu-Rays, there AREN’T home videos released exclusively for formats that only those units can play. Same thing for the Pioneer LaserActive which one day shall be mine. As my earlier post might indicate, I do have me some laserdiscs. And spellcheck for WordPress indicates that “laserdisc” is not a real word… how much we forget in 19 years!
Game Boy Advance Video
If you didn’t know what I meant by “artifacting” when talking about CD-I videos, you’ll see in these screenshots. It looks terrible, but they had to make some sacrifices to fit them onto cartridges. Besides, Game Boy Advance Video came out early in 2004. At that time, the best you could get is whatever image the frontlit SP provided.
There is a small library of Game Boy Advance Video titles, compared to UMD releases. 34 cartridges by my count. All of them are children/pre-teen shows. Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Pokemon dubs, things like that. I just bought ’em up for the SpongeBob episodes, though I think I got my Cartoon Network one for free. I wasn’t disappointed- it meant I got an episode of Courage The Cowardly Dog.
Nintendo entrusted this endeavor to Majesco (except the Pokemon releases, Nintendo handled that differently). This seemed like a bad choice to me, after my most recent experience with a Majesco product. A product that surely would’ve been on Nintendo’s mind and on Majesco’s resume, since it came out less than 6 years before Game Boy Advance Video hit the marketplace.
Majesco was responsible for releasing the Sega Genesis Model 3 in 1998. No Sega CD compatibility, no Sega 32X compatibility, didn’t work with some Sega Genesis games, and they’re prone to rusting. I have an Atari 2600 that runs smooth and looks new despite being purchased in the 70’s and having spent 20 years in my dad’s closet, yet both of the Model 3’s I got looked like someone drizzled salt water in them and they only turned 20 this year. The cashiers at the shop I bought the first one from noted that Model 3’s were notorious for their unreliability and lack of durability. But hey, as long as it works, right?
UMD is just the general title for PSP discs. This got way more traction as far as putting videos on it went. The videos looked better, like DVDs. Evidently there was 900MB-1.8GB of space to work with on the discs. Unlike with the Game Boy Advance Video format which had lockouts preventing you from playing your movie on the TV (in case you wanted to pirate the pixelated mess), the PSP has no such lockout and can plug directly into your TV. Or at least mine could.
The video selection is much more vast. Soooooo many discs. Family Guy seasons 1-3 come to mind right away (because I bought them off a friend, who threw away their original cases and had them in specially-bought UMD cases that I had to sort through). The first time I saw some movies, like Godzilla: Final Wars, it was on the UMD release. But as you can tell just by Family Guy and Godzilla being mentioned, UMD discs had a pretty broad set of videos put on them… and upon looking at my collection when desperately trying to reunite a loose UMD with its case, I found some films I didn’t remember having, one of which the venerable founder of this blog referenced to me a few times but I never understood because I never saw it.
Not A Fair Comparison
Yes, the PSP was principally in competition with the Nintendo DS. But Nintendo did not make any DS-Video releases, and as point of fact UMD movies only started coming out in 2004, the same year as Game Boy Advance Video. Nintendo’s next video attempt didn’t hit until the 3DS. This was called “Nintendo Video”, but didn’t seem to go far (and had content from notorious Leftwingers CollegeHumor, but this was in the pre-Trump time so maybe it wasn’t so bad). Since then video content has been relegated to stuff in Nintendo’s eShop, but by now with Netflix and the like available on your consoles (my mother’s friend uses her Wii for Netflix of all things) I guess stuff like UMDs and Game Boy Advance Video are going the way of the CD-I video.
Why’d They Do It Anyway?
Sony had the discs, Nintendo had the cartridges, and people like movies on the go. This was before Wi-Fi was everywhere. I in fact bought the PSP and some movies in part because I was going on a long trip, so I guess that means those reached their target audience of travelling teens. UMD allowed for quality transfers, and had more content than just programs aimed at younger audiences, so it makes sense that’d takeoff. It was also a cheaper alternative to portable DVD players- it cost me $50 in 2008 to buy one from a pawn shop, whereas that much money got me probably two UMD movies in 2006. Since people already had the hardware, why not take some movies on the go in a convenient travel size?
Now, this kind of thing wouldn’t make any sense today. And questions on the future of gaming are raised- what is the fate of having your own disc copy? Will we eventually just be playing Xbox games from Microsoft’s server farm, with the Xbox Three being merely a box with an internet connection? Enter your card, play online and pay as much as you would for the discs? It cuts down on distribution, for sure! Given the controversies about excessive paywalls in games and paid extra content, why wouldn’t we expect gaming companies to cut disc production from their expenses? With the popularity of outlets like Steam, and doing stuff like just buying the games online and downloading them to your console (I remember when I bought Rare Replay for the Xbox One and watched in horror as it simply downloaded the games to suck up memory space on my console, the disc contained almost nothing on it).
Its Future Is History
This will pose a major problem for game collectors in the future. Take this hypothetical: Lloyd Bridges Games creates Super A Walk In The Sun. We play it, it’s a good game, but it’s entirely online. The company goes out of business. All bonus content that was stored in their servers- GONE! All your save files stored in their servers- GONE! The game itself can’t be played anymore- GONE!
Or how about the problem with something like Rare Replay, where the disc only contained download codes. What if my Xbox One didn’t connect to the store? What if this is 20 years from now and Lloyd Bridges Games had put Microsoft out of business? Rare Replay would be worthless.
I saw an example of this in the store a few weeks ago. Final Fantasy XI. Unless you transferred to a Windows PC (not Apple, apparently) then all that time you spent on your console version meant nothing, and video game stores are full of copies of the game that are now unplayable. There is no single-player campaign in it, it’s entirely online. So what happens when Square dumps the Windows version too? I guess the same thing that happened to all of those PS2/Xbox 360 owners who only had Apple computers available or didn’t have the money to get a copy of Windows. Final Fantasy XI, part of one of the longest-running video game franchises, will be consigned to the depths of LostMediaWiki despite millions having played it and invested years in it.
Same can be said for any online game like that, such as ones for the Sega Dreamcast, but this was the first example that popped into my mind.