Well this just makes sense. I’ve never understood why you had to use a disc to get Netflix up and running on the Wii or the PS3 when both of these consoles support downloadable games/applications and have more than enough memory to run them. Starting today, go ahead and hit that eject button because the era of disc-based Netflix streaming is over. In Canada, PS3 owners have always had the disc-free option, but Wii users still needed the disc.
According to a blog post published today by Netflix’s VP of Product Development, Greg Peters, this change comes with an entirely new user interface as well:
In addition to removing the need for discs, we’ve developed a new user interface on both applications that significantly improves the experience. The new applications will allow you to search for content directly from the device and you’ll also be able to view an increasing portion of our content library with subtitles or alternate audio tracks.
But wait, the good news train isn’t stopping here – there’s more excitement for PS3 owners … “starting today you’ll be able to instantly watch some movies and TV shows in 1080p high definition with Dolby 5.1 channel surround sound.” Netflix said more devices would be added over time to support streaming digital surround sound – hopefully the brand-new Apple TV will be amongst the first to be upgraded.
These are both worthy developments for the recently-launched service here in Canada, however based on discussions I’ve had with people who have signed up, the real improvement that is sorely needed is an increase in the number of titles in the Canadian catalog.
One subscriber observed that there isn’t a single movie from Disney for instance, which is frustrating if you’re a parent of pre-teens.
Netflix has already committed to growing its catalog for Canadian subscribers, but there has been no announcement regarding how soon or how many titles will be added.
So Sync readers – especially those of you who have subscribed to Netflix, what do you make of these announcements? Have you tried the new interface and if so, is it the improvement that Netflix claims?
Today’s the day many Canadians have been waiting for. Netflix, the company that offers unlimited DVD and Blu-ray rentals in the U.S., has opened their virtual doors in Canada. While their product at launch isn’t exactly the same as south of the border, it is the first service of its kind and promises to shake up the video landscape. Here’s what was announced:
- $7.99 CDN per month gets you unlimited access to Netflix’s online movie and TV database
- First month free
- 1/3 of the content that is available can be streamed in HD
- There is no disc-based option at this time (streaming over the internet only)
- Service is supported immediately on Wii, PS3, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
- Xbox360 support coming later this fall
- Some Blu-ray players from Toshiba and Samsung are already compatible
- The service will work with Apple TV and several other devices once they launch in the Canadian market
- The selection of movies and TV shows (which number in the thousands) are not new releases, but older “catalog” titles
There is really only one catch to Netflix’s offer: Since ISP price-plans vary wildly in terms of how fast your connection is and what your bandwidth cap is set at, consumers have to take a close look at their web-surfing habits so that their Netflix activity doesn’t end up costing them more due to overage charges. This will be especially important to monitor if you plan on streaming HD content – it doesn’t cost any more to do so from a Netflix perspective, but these movies will eat up a lot more of your internet bandwidth.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to these concerns when interviewed by the CBC. He claims that in spite of evidence to the contrary, bandwidth caps should go up, not down, over time and will eventually cease to be issue for services like Netflix.
Interestingly, Blockbuster Video earlier this week launched a new price plan presumably aimed at people who like the idea of an all-you-can-watch pricing model, but who for whatever reason aren’t interested in Netflix or aren’t able to access it: $9.99 per month will let you rent as many DVDs or Blu-ray movies as you like, one title at a time. Similar to Netflix, the selection of titles is limited to their “favourites” category, which does not include new releases.
So Sync readers, what do you think? Has Netflix created the ultimate video-watching option, or do the bandwidth issues create too much of a headache? Or perhaps you’re content with the existing options you have with your cable or satellite provider? Do you think $7.99 is the right price for a service like this even if you can’t choose from new releases?
Update: On a related note, Netflix reportedly hired a group of actors to attend the launch event today in Toronto and instructed them to “… look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada.” Netflix later apologized for the gaffe, saying it shouldn’t have happened.
Update Nov 1, 2010: Netflix is now available on Xbox 360 in Canada: simply click on Netflix in the Video Marketplace on the Xbox 360 Dashboard.
Tony Hawk Ride is a ground-breaking game that seeks to bring the virtual a real worlds ever closer by introducing a special skateboard-deck controller into the gaming arsenal. So while traditional game reviewers can certainly weigh in on what they think of the game, someone needs to ask the question: What do real skaters think? So I asked. The answer came from my colleague, Matt Forsythe, editor over at Push.ca and no stranger to the asphalt-and-road-rash-real world of skateboarding. Better yet, Matt has clocked some serious hours with previous titles in the Tony Hawk game franchise. Here is his take on THRIDE for the Xbox 360…
Despite the Tony Hawk games turning into roller coaster simulations over the past few releases (boring, over-the-top, easily setup tricks [see chart]), I’ve got a soft spot for the series. Being the first game to do a decent job of representing skateboarding, I put more playtime into the demo of the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater (THPS) than I have into other full games, sticking with the series until Tony Hawk’s Underground. After losing ground to EA’s competing Skate franchise, the Tony Hawk team has gone for broke with a complete reboot of their series in Tony Hawk Ride. You won’t be able to miss the package in stores: the calling card of Ride is the included motion-sensing skateboard controller that’s a requirement. It seemed like as good a reason as any to give Tony another chance.
Like anyone who skates, first thing I wanted to know right out of the box is if you could actually get some pop on this thing. Thanks to a solid build and some weight, the board doesn’t feel like a cheap toy; you don’t want to shin yourself with this thing. Four visual sensors on the top of the board give it a serious “this thing is high-tech and I shouldn’t break it” feel. I passed on the ollie in case the safety warnings were true (and it wouldn’t be possible to review the game with a broken fake skateboard).
Some advice when getting started: make sure you’ve got a controller handy because if you’ve ever tried navigating a menu with a skateboard, it’s not easy. The inconsistencies of when you can and can’t use the board to get around make things worse. The board has full buttons and a d-pad, but if you’re reaching to the floor for that, you may as well grab your controller (or turn it into a sweet “multiplayer” game. I call menu guy, dibs!).
The basic mechanics of the game consist of balancing this mock skateboard to steer, while making different foot motions to pull off tricks while skating through different levels. There’s three options for how much work you’ll have to do: “Casual” keeps you on rails, leaving you to focus on tricks, “Confident” removes the rails, but supposedly stills helps (I did not get that feeling), and “Hardcore” moves when you move. The funny thing is that the “Hardcore” control setting seemed easier than the “Confident” setting, feeling more like the response of an actually skateboard (well, as close as you might get without trucks and wheels…and actually rolling).
Actually getting to the levels is the next trick. The load times are yawn-inducing, with the constant insistence of re-orienting your board (choosing regular or goofy, which should just be a menu option) adding insult to the wait when you think you’re finally ready to play.
When you get to the “skateboarding”, things get weird. Turns out, you’re going to need actual balance skills to make a real go at the game (which is odd, because real world skill and videogames rarely mix), and that’s just to keep you going in a straight line. Tricks, on the other hand, are a shot in the dark. Performing specific tricks is a crapshoot, devolving to strange ritual dance motions that translate to sick moves on screen. It’s supposed to help that there’s a small on-screen display mirroring your motions on the board, but putting your hand over one of four sensors to perform grabs gets old fast when you can see the display registering your movements, but not translating to tricks in the game.
Any hardcore THPS fan will be familiar with the repetitive stress injuries associated with “start, down, X”, the pause/menu combo used to restart a level while trying to complete one particular, stressful thing in early Tony Hawk games. Without having a controller in your hand, and dealing with vague controls, you have to suffer through chains of challenges with one incomplete piece, waiting for the end of a run to start over…again and again.
With so many points working against it, it was no surprise that I saw more kids at the skate park this weekend in below zero temperatures than were playing this game online.
At a $120 admission price, you’ve got to want to go fake skateboarding pretty badly to get on this Ride. And without anything to lose, I did try: you can actually get some pop on the board. It results in some possibly damaging noises, yet it’s still not as fun as the real thing.
— Thanks Matt!