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The Future of Console Gaming

part 2/page 10


   Unlike Sega who appears to be driving to create a vast networked community, Sony's drive appears to be to create first and foremost a massive, networked, broadband dependent delivery system to deliver content to users no matter what that content is or how the user wants to use it. While in some ways both of these goals can produce similar end results for gamers such as networked multi-player games, I think the fundamental difference is telling in just what the focus of future projects will be. I would like to say though that based on these statements, it is safe to say that the PS 2 will almost certainly ship with some form of Internet connectivity in the U.S., if not in the rest of the world.

   Lastly, since Sony is so diversified in the process of digital content delivery, it is always a good thing to monitor what they are doing on the whole. Although, doing so can lead to concern regarding Sony's attitudes about control over what they perceive to be their property. For instance in September 1999 it came to light that Sony had started requiring music artists to relinquish all ownership and rights to any use of a band's name (or any derivatives) used in URLs to Sony, "in perpetuity" of the contract's signing. In simple terms, that means if you are a band and you sign with Sony, any URL that contains your bands name falls under the ownership of Sony *forever*. Even if you leave Sony and move to another label, Sony owns the use of your bands name in any web address. If you don't believe it, just see the wording presented in a C|Net article which reprinted the specific text from a standard Sony Music contract they had obtained:

"Sony and its licensees shall have the exclusive right, throughout the world, and shall have the exclusive right to authorize other persons, to create, maintain, and host any and all Web sites relating to the artist and to register and use the name '[artist name].com' and any variations thereof which embody the artist's name as Uniform Resource Locators (or 'URLs'), addresses, or domain names for each Web site created by Sony in respect of the artist."(15)

   The chilling thing here is that regardless to whether or not Sony corrects this particular problem. The kind of mentality that can make a company put an artists into such a contract should be of concern to consumers, and more-so, to perspective developers. As Sony gains more and more ground in the home computer/console market, history indicates that they will enforce more and more control over the data they carry regardless to the effect it has on the artists or the consumer.

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   The last company I will talk about in this installment will actually be the company that is generally credited with having created the video games industry as we know it as well as being its most famous casualty, Atari. By the early 1980's Atari held an almost institutional status in this country. Standing with the likes of IBM, Coca-Cola, and AT&T, the Atari logo was common in popular culture. Just look at the classic movie Blade Runner as an example of what I'm talking about. There used to be a day when the average consumer didn't think twice about Atari always being a major household name.

   Unfortunately this changed, and while everyone has their own opinion of where Atari went wrong, be it when Nolan Bushnell first sold out to Warner, up through when the Tramiels took over Atari's home/consumer segment. For all intents and purposes though we'll focus on the last leg of Atari's life under the Tramiel family. Jack Tramiel, according to most sources, apparently ruled his acquisition of Atari with an iron fist. But, he apparently had one major handicap which proved to be his background as President of Commodore Business Machines. Specifically his tenure during the time of the original PET computer in a day when journalists would flock to your door to report on anything new. To clarify this situation, I quote a comment from former Atari employee, Don Thomas, who made these remarks following his leaving the company:

"Clearly, Jack's experience with the world beating a path to the door of a company making a better mousetrap no longer applied. The world had revolved a few times beneath him and he never noticed. The tactics used to successfully sell Commodore computers were simply antiquated notions from the past. Meanwhile, Sony launches the PlayStation with over $500 million in marketing funds. Today, the PlayStation is considered the most successful next-generation gaming machine throughout the world. Sony bought the market. Tramiel's Atari never learned how to do that. Actually, they never could afford it anyway."(16)

   If you still have your doubts about just how much coverage the Pet received, one needs to go no farther than everyone's first stop for computer news (sic)... Playboy Magazine, who in February 1978 featured a preview and screen shots of the system (for a short time Playboy has this article republished on their web site in the "Historic Playboy" area).

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