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UMD Format's Death Rattle Begins

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the without-wal-mart-you're-no-mart dept.


Next Generation reports that Wal-mart is dumping the UMD format, because no one was buying movies with the media. Above and beyond that decision, the studios are unimpressed as well. From the article: "One unnamed president of a major studio is quoted as saying, 'No one's watching movies on PSP. It's a game player, period.' Universal Studios Home Entertainment has ceased UMD production. One exec told Reuters, 'Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb.' Paramount is also considering its future with PSP's format. An exec said, 'We are on hiatus with UMD. Releasing titles on UMD is the exception rather than the rule. No one's even breaking even on them.'"

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Betamax was better (4, Insightful)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026842)

At least Betamax had some technical reasons for people to consider it better than VHS. UMDs cost the same as (or more than) DVDs, with less resolution.

Re:Betamax was better (5, Informative)

Cy Sperling (960158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027072)

Also, for as much flack as Betamax still gets- people don;t seem to realize that Betamax later evolved into BetaCam and Digital BetaCam. Those 2 formats are still the standard for 95% of all profesional broadcasting (pre HD of course). Beta may have failed at the consumer level, but the technology paid back in spades in the pro market.

Re:Betamax was better (1)

Keith Russell (4440) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027191)

I sometimes wonder if Sony's R&D money would have been better spent on a read-only Memory Stick variant for games. With some clever engineering, they could prevent "PSP Sticks" from being read by any old schmuck with a 6-in-1 card reader, ROM chips would be cheaper, and load times should improve.* I wonder how much the UMD drive's motor has on battery life?

*: Based on my own anecdotal evidence. Maybe my sample set is too small, but every PSP game I've played has been slower than dirt.

Re:Betamax was better (2, Informative)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028141)

That's called a cartridge, and they abandoned it in favor of the optical disc for a couple of reasons:

1) Optical discs hold more data.
2) They are far cheaper to make.

In doing so they sacrificed a few things:

1) Loading speed
2) Energy conservation
3) Durability of the read drive

I think of it this way: Sony had a certain set of priorities for the PSP.

1) PS2-esque graphics
2) Portable size
3) Games $50 or less

That could not be achieved with anything but a UMD-like optical disc. They would have to sacrifice graphics or price to use carts.

Was it a good idea? Depends on what your priorities are for gaming.

Re:Betamax was better (1)

G-funk (22712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028868)

How do you figure? The DS uses carts, and they're well priced. All the graphics rendering happens outside the cart anyway.

Betamax was NOT superior (5, Interesting)

sirwired (27582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027318)

This is a persistent myth that has gone on for decades, and has become "accepted wisdom". Betamax did have higher-quality output (though not by much), but it was certainly not a superior format, at least IMHO. The true test of any technology, is "does it meet the consumer's needs?". In the case of Betamax for a long time, the answer was "not as well as the available VHS machines", not even close for "regular folks". For the extremely limited market of Videophiles, Beta may have been better, but that couldn't sustain the market.

In technology, a common axiom is "Cheap, Fast, Good, pick two." VHS was Fast (shipped worthwhile features MUCH faster than Sony did), and MUCH cheaper. Beta only had "Good".

For starters, there were too few makers of machines and the price was too high. In addition, the first Betamax player was quite feature-poor. The damn thing didn't even come with a clock. You had to buy that as an add-on feature. VHS was ruthless about exploiting this.

2nd, and perhaps most importantly, the capacity was too low. It took quite some time before Sony shipped a tape that could run longer than ONE HOUR. This was colossally stupid. Sony KNEW how to extend it, but the morons in Sony design thought one-hour was an acceptable limit. VHS shipped the 4-hour capable T-120 right out of the gate, with quality that was acceptable. While the quality at the lower tape speed wasn't as good, it was doable for just recording soaps, or whatever. When Sony got wind of the VHS's recording time, they shipped a two-hour Betamax machine, using of course a slower tape speed to extend the time. Of course, this also eliminated most of Betamax's quality advantage.

Time and time again, all Betamax had was slightly superior video quality (VHS and Beta both made continuous improvements to the machines, so Beta wasn't THAT far ahead.) Also, Betamax decks kept the tape threaded at all times, which put a LOT of wear on the tape during Rewind/FF operations. To top it off, Sony made a LOT of mistakes about simple features. VHS was first to ship a pause button on the remote, the first with the longer recording time, the first with a standard programmable timer, the first with an infrared remote, the first with front-loading, the first with a camcorder that didn't suck, feature-wise, the list goes on.

In summary, all Beta had going for it was video quality, but couldn't back it up with features worth a damn. This was compounded by colossal errors in finance, OEM relations and marketing.


Betamax was superior by the time it mattered (4, Interesting)

metamatic (202216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027677)

That still doesn't explain the Betamax failure, though.

By the time I saw my first home video recorder, the early problems of Betamax had been eliminated. The machine had a timer, multi-hour tapes were available, there was even a multi-load option to put 4 tapes in a stack and have it use them all while you were on vacation. The tape was automatically unthreaded once a certain threshold of FF/RW was hit--and in fact, many VHS decks had started to keep the tape threaded initially, because a 1 second pause to thread or unthread the tape each time you hit a button is damn annoying when you're skipping around trying to find a particular point.

Video stores were about 50/50 Beta/VHS. There were other manufacturers selling Beta decks. And Beta still had far better video quality--maybe you couldn't see it on lousy US NTSC TVs, but on PAL systems it was very obvious.

Yet VHS still won. So I don't buy the argument that alleged early deficiencies of Betamax account for its failure.

Re:Betamax was superior by the time it mattered (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027957)

there was even a multi-load option to put 4 tapes in a stack and have it use them all while you were on vacation.

Which reminds me of the old technology adoption curve.

Early adopters want all kids of whiz bang features. Pragmatists are interested in far fewer features, and much more interested in cost. Late adopters are only interested in cost. You make the lion's share of your money with the pragmatists.

It follows that if somebody gets to the pragmatists before you do with a good enough, cheap enough product, you're heading into a dead end. In the case of UMD, I'd guess that format would be DVD; you can get portable players now for around $100, and once you have a handful of titles you're ahead of the game price wise, as the UMDs are more expensive, and you may end up buying DVDs of your favorite movies anyway.

Re:Betamax was NOT superior (1)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027749)

Top marks, although I'd claim that keeping the tape threaded was an advantage for Beta. It never wore out any of our Beta tapes at the time, and it made player operations much, much faster: You pressed play, and the tape played immediately. My first encounter with a VHS machine, I was wondering, "What the hell is taking the damned thing so long to play?" I thought it was broken.

Re:Betamax was NOT superior (1)

Ransak (548582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027860)

Cheap, Fast, Good, pick two.

I think you mean "Cheap. Fast. Reliable. Pick two." This was a mantra back in the heyday of Battlebots.

But you're right, it fits just about any technology.

Re:Betamax was NOT superior (1)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028191)

Betamax was NOT superior
This is a persistent myth that has gone on for decades
but it was certainly not a superior format, at least IMHO
(Emphasis Mine)
I just want you to know how much I appreciate that you blatantly contradicted yourself within 3 sentences (counting the title.) It saves so much reading when fools make the effort to out themselves early, and I applaud you for the courtesy.

Why do we use Digi-Beta? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028202)

Why do we today use digi beta in the production environment if VHS was better? Beta evolved in the video production environment where VHS couldn't reach. Beta SP, Digi Beta, Beta-SX, HD-Cam. VHS digital is not bad but not as good.

plus the rasons you explain why vhs excelled were because of sonys poor choices, not because Beta couldn't do it. It could have been done but sony tried to hold on to there baby to long and ended up smothering it in that market.

Re:Betamax was NOT superior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028595)

You're a bit off on a few points, but I'll only correct one as I've got to make a lunch date.

JVC has never officially supported 4-hour LP. Only later did they include playback support, but sometimes features were disabled. T-120 officially supports 120 minutes or 360 minutes in SP and EP modes, respectively.

I'm a huge fanboy of the VHS format, its successive variants, and its development history at JVC, BTW. I agree with you that it is a superior format than any form of consumer Betamax, and always has been. (However, I did prefer Hi8 very much to SVHSC.) I've mastered a few broadcast-quality VHS beauties. I'm weird, I guess. Lunchtime!

Re:Betamax was NOT superior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028939)

If everything about it was better (smaller size, better quality) how was it NOT the superior format?

Re:Betamax was better (3, Interesting)

Bagels (676159) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027344)

Actually, UMDs store video at the same resolution as DVDs - 720*480 - but the PSP's screen (with a resolution of 480*272) is incapable of displaying said resolution, and Sony's dragged their heels on releasing a stand-alone UMD player.

Re:Betamax was better (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027589)

The lesson here is to never pick a Sony backed video format.


Re:Betamax was better (0, Redundant)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027658)

or more simply: never pick a Sony backed format

or simpler still: never pick a Sony

I'm not surprised. (3, Insightful)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026848)

Seriously. The PSP is niche at best, and the media price isn't all that cheap, I imagine. Add in the fact that the UMD flicks were rather pricey at retail, and you get a flop.

I'm surprised that the studios actually did release movies on UMD. I'd have waited to see how that whole PSP market panned out first.

Re:I'm not surprised. (1)

thesaint05 (850634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026947)

Maybe if the PSP also played mini discs...

Re:I'm not surprised. (1)

sgant (178166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027045)

Yeah really. I don't think it will be long before stores stop stocking PSP games! I'm just not that impressed by it, nor do I even know anyone that has one.

My son and all his friends all have Nintendo DS systems. That seems to be the rage now.

Re:I'm not surprised. (3, Funny)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027336)

Well I don't know anyone with a DS, but I have a PSP and know at least 4 other people who do also. Isn't it fun how non-indicative of reality personal experiences can be? As it happens, according to a recent article on 1up, the PSP and DS are roughly level in the US market (not so in Japan however, the PSP is at about 50% of the DS installed base there).

Re:I'm not surprised. (1)

EvilSS (557649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027109)

It is great if you fly a lot. I know several people, including myself, that bought the PSP mainly to watch movies on when flying. Smaller than a laptop, easy to use. I bought several PSP movies when I was flying all the time. Unfortunately that's not a large enough market to sustain it as a format, and there is not any compelling reason to use them outside of traveling. Since I stopped traveling for work, I haven't bought a new one or touched the old ones.

Of course if you are technical you can just rip and compress a DVD then shove it on a memory stick. Not as convenient but cheaper since you get the DVD and get to watch it on the PSP. If (when) I start traveling again I'll probably just do that instead of buying UMD's (even if they are still available).

DMCA (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028942)

Of course if you are technical you can just rip and compress a DVD then shove it on a memory stick.

And to get even more technical, ripping a CSS encrypted DVD to a PSP compatible format is a tort and crime in the United States, Australia, many countries of the European Union, and other developed countries that have implemented the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

Re:I'm not surprised. (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027440)

I like my PSP, it's great on a plane or when i'm stuck somewhere I don't want to be and do not wish to pay attention. (Ex.: Almost any social gathering I'm suckered in to). Features that are nice: great display, good sound, movie-video, kick-ass joystick, wireless Design decisions that detract from the product: UMD format, Expensive Games, no USB storage (WTF!?!) The system could have been good if Sony had let engineers design this product instead of marketing executives. Sell the thing with a hard drive and let users iTunes their games/video onto the thing. Who wants to carry catridges around anyway?

Re:I'm not surprised. (4, Informative)

fistfullast33l (819270) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027548)

The PSP is niche at best

I live in NYC and commute via subway every day to work. I am surprised by the number of people who actually play a PSP, watch movies, and even listen to the music (the lame headphones give them away - the left side is shorter than the right). I personally just use it to listen to music because I'm a little wary of holding it out in the open to be snatched away. I wouldn't say I've seen as many people with a DS or Gameboy. Lots of iPods, obviously, and many cell phone gamers and crackberry addicts. But the PSP definitely has a nicer chunk of representation than the other handhelds.

As for the UMD movies, I'm not surprised myself either. I stayed away from them because they were more expensive than DVDs. I always thought that the best way to utilize the UMD movies is to rent, but Sony just didn't seem to get that. If Blockbuster had UMD movies to rent I'd be all over it for when I travel. Great idea, poor execution.

Re:I'm not surprised. (2, Interesting)

powerlord (28156) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027875)

Ditto. I also work and live in NYC. I use my PSP to/from work to play games. I've also been able to start listening to music and watching video (transfered from TiVo and re-encoded/downloaded to PSP memory stick). The thing that held me back before was ambient noise. In the subway, the ambient noise in a train car can be pretty loud. I finally stumbled on the ER6 ear-buds from Etymotic [] . Their great, I can listen to music on an iPod or PSP with the volume down at the half way mark (instead of having to crank it to max to compete with ambient noise). As an added bonus, the buds are black so their less of give-a-way vs. the white "I have a high-tech gadget" ones.

I'm amazed at the number of PSPs I see while commuting. Yeah, the number of iPods dwarfs the PSP number, but I've yet to see more than a handful of DS or GBAs. When I do, their usually low teens. The majority of the people I see with PSPs are high-teens and adults.

My favorite is was a three piece suit type using a PSP right next to a teen on his way to high school. Made me wonder if they were running a WiFi matchup :)

All that said, UMD just was not marketed right to work, and I've never known anyone who had a UMD movie, since there was little incentive to buy them instead of DVDs, especially once the 1GB and 2GB MemoryStick PRO cards came out.

Re:I'm not surprised. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028142)

It might have been a good idea if they let you copy DVDs to UMD format to watch on your portable. But then they wouldn't be able to charge everyone a second time for movies, and the movie studies would have hissy fits about these pirates copying their movies to a lower quality format.

Re:I'm not surprised. (1)

pixel_bc (265009) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028897)

> Seriously. The PSP is niche at best

There are over 10 million PSPs worldwide in the hands of consumers... hardly niche.

never... (4, Insightful)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026857)

well stone the crows... the format was effectively dead, in that it required you to have a PSP... whereas you could go out and purchase a portable DVD player that took your existing disks for a fraction of the cost of a PSP... the only people who were in the market for UMD then were those few PSP owners who were stupid, or else didn't have an existing DVD player and TV to watch them on...

Really ... what a shock. (3, Interesting)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027059)

You beat me to it. Why anyone would consider the PSP to be a portable movie player is beyond me. Another cost for a different media, a typically Sony proprietary format, with a screen that's a lot smaller than most portable DVD players. For crying out loud, I recently bought a DVD player with a 7" 16:9 screen that could double as a portable video game display (I/O cables were included) for less than $100 -- and I don't have to purchase the same movie again on UMD!

The fact that Sony actually expected people to double-dip for an inferior format is staggering. Of course, this comes from the same people who brought us Beta, MiniDisc, and music CD rootkits.

Re:Really ... what a shock. (2, Interesting)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027356)

I agree with the main point of your post, but the part about MD and Beta seems off to me. Beta came out about the same time as VHS, so it was anyones guess which one would win, and MiniDisc was a pretty good replacement for tapes in walkmans until they where pushed out of the market by MP3-players.

Re:Really ... what a shock. (2, Interesting)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027547)

I think there were issues with MiniDisc, but I do think it was an issue of marketing. They were marketed as a replacement for CDs, but they really sucked in that regard. However, they're fantastic as a replacement for tape -- easy to record to on the fly, smaller, digital, etc. But they were never sold as thus.

Re:Really ... what a shock. (1)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027834)

What's truly staggering to me was not Sony's expectation that they would, but the surprisingly large number of folks who actually did.

Not large enough, of course, but still...

Re:Really ... what a shock. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027880)

I'm a big fan of Sony, but I totally agree with you.

But here's what really gets me-- I program games for the PSP, and it is a pretty sweet little gaming device. The one huge gaping flaw is that damned UMD drive! The streaming speed is slow, seeking is slow, and it eats battery life like a demon in a garden planted with the souls of small children.

And (I think) the whole reason for UMD was to play movies! ACK! It's so frustrating how artificially limited games are by that drive.

At least Sony opted for a hard drive on PS3 or it would have been the same thing again. Here's some numbers just for perspective-- With a good estimate of 10MB/s off Blu Ray, it would take 51 seconds just to fill main RAM and VRAM from disc. Now let's stream in a dungeon: "Loading........"

novelty purchase (5, Insightful)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026866)

I think studios saw sales spikes from novelty purchases ("Hey, my PSP can play movies! I should try one") and quickly flooded the market with the same kind of crap they were able to sell at the begining of the DVD market. But no one wants to rebuild their catalogs on UMD like they did on DVD. I think there really is a UMD movie market, but assuming it's a duplicate of the DVD market is probably a bad idea.

Useless (2, Insightful)

Wootzor von Leetenha (938602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026874)

I have a PSP but own no movies. It's like the only people that would buy movies for PSP either fly on airplanes or are frequent passengers on long car trips. The percentage of those people is like .0002 of every PSP owner, I'd imagine. Even then, I don't think the battery life lasts more than 2 movies (?). It's practically useless. Bad, very bad, business decision on Sony and the movie industry's part.

Shortly...Useless (1)

White Yeti (927387) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028885)

My 10-yr-old bought three UMD movies after he first got his PSP. He watched them on road trips and sleep-overs with his friends. Now I find the movies in a drawer in the kitchen, with the scissors and tape! This boy obsesses easily, but lately the handheld/console market has him yawning. Now he's got to have a pair of (expensive) Heely wheely shoes.

Re:Useless (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028909)

It's like the only people that would buy movies for PSP either fly on airplanes or are frequent passengers on long car trips.

A lot of people must live or work under conditions that preclude commuting on a bicycle (harsh winters, hip or knee arthritis, no affordable housing within 20 miles of the office, etc). Many of these people rely on a bus or train, and they can watch one act of a movie for each half hour trip.

Big surprise.... (4, Insightful)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026878)

A proprietary format that is similar in price to a DVD but (I'm assuming) a fraction of the resolution is failing. Mean while, you can purchase the full resolution DVD, Buy a Memory Stick (which aren't terribly priced now as I rexcall), and convert the movie to a PSP format and put it on the stick. I for one am not surprised. With the push for GPU companies to support hardware encoding, the conversion time may eventually not even be a problem for those that do go this route.

Filtering within DVD players (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028997)

A proprietary format that is similar in price to a DVD but (I'm assuming) a fraction of the resolution is failing.

DVD Video in North America and Japan is specified at up to 720x480 pixels. However, the median DVD player is connected to a 4:3 TV through a composite video connection. After filtering the picture horizontally to remove color fringes and excessive dot crawling (the hallmarks of luma-chroma crosstalk), you end up with the equivalent of 480x480, the resolution of Super Video CD. After further downsampling vertically to correct for anamorphic aspect ratio, and filtering vertically to reduce flicker, you end up with about 480x272 of actual picture information, which happens to be the same pixel resolution as UMD Video.

Re:Big surprise.... (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 8 years ago | (#15029076)

A proprietary format that is similar in price to a DVD but (I'm assuming) a fraction of the resolution is failing.

Not to mention your other (very good) options:

  1. Netflix as a source is great, and convertible as you mentioned, to PSP format.
  2. is very popular these days for someone who doesn't mind a few minutes searching...conversion is easy also
  3. Video podcasting and iTMS downloads are quite usable, and although the screen and quality is smaller, it's much easier than converting DVD/download > PSP compatible. I already have my iPod sync going, now I just buy or subscribe to a podcast, and it works.
  4. Or... I can just not watch movies, I mean jeebus, the PSP is a GAMING device, why would I want to watch something when I can be more interactive?

Nobody's buying? (3, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026884)

Nobody's buying them? But I thought Sony said that they'd sold 8 million UMD movie discs, [] and that they couldn't even keep up with demand. And that was over six months ago. Are you saying that they weren't being honest?!?

Re:Nobody's buying? (2, Funny)

Kyrthira (666470) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026969)

A huge megacorp lying about its profits in an attempt to bolster the market? Never.

Re:Nobody's buying? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027117)

Remember, Sony reports "Units Shipped" (What THEY have sold to retailers), not "Units Sold" (How many the retailers have sold).

They probably weren't lying, per se, just misleading. Remember, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics...

Re:Nobody's buying? (1)

mjeffers (61490) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028072)

Exactly. I read this as "Sony sold 8 million UMD's [to Walmart and other retailers who can't even give them away]"

Re:Nobody's buying? (3, Insightful)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028079)

Sony probably did sell eight million UMD discs - to retailers all over the world, who still have them collecting dust andare now either going to dump them below cost just to get shelf space back, or, if they have the clout to do so, send them right back to Sony.

Re:Nobody's buying? (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028994)

You could probably get that if every PSP owner bought one or two UMD movies just to check it out.

Then they all said "Eh" and went back to playing games. No more UMD sales in the past six months!

This is what annoys me. (4, Interesting)

Lave (958216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026904)

I hear stories like this all the time, and from my friends with PSP's they say the same things (hmmm, anecdotal), but when I go into any GAME/Virgin/HMV etc the PSP UMD section outstrips the entire DS section. A console with comparable success*. This was particularly annoying when I was walking to every shop in town desperate for a Nintedogs Mulitpack, which had sold out everywhere.

It makes me wonder how much Sony (and now MS with the 360) are paying to make their brands look popular.

And I don't think it's untrue when I say that a sizeable amount of the hate for Nintendo comes from the way these shops are set up.

* Most evidence suggests the DS far outstrips the PSP in sales, but I avoided saying that because that's not the point I'm trying to make.

Also at Walmart, though (2, Insightful)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027389)

This is the thing fascinating me about this news: Even Wal-Mart, every time I've gone in there in the last year or so, is pushing UMD movies above the DS games. I've been to Wal-Marts in a few areas and all of them have had the UMD movies right up front and clearly visible in a big flashy display, while the DS games are just kind of unceremoniously stuffed at the back of the aisle.

This always disheartens me a little, and my response is usually just "Huh. Well, the PSP may be trailing the DS in total market share [] and trailing the GBA in day-to-day sales [] , and it may have a game library roughly as vibrant as the Jaguar, but I guess those UMD sales must be really popular. After all, if they weren't popular, why else would Wal-Mart be giving then so much well-placed shelf space?"

I'm still wondering this. Going from this big flashy UMD pushing I've seen recently to just nothing seems like a startling 180. If the article is right that they weren't selling well, why was Wal-Mart displaying such enthusiasm about UMDs up until the moment they dropped them? Were they displaying them thus because sales were sluggish, in hopes they could actually start to move units? Were they just not thinking about things very clearly? Is something going on behind the scenes here? What?

Re:Also at Walmart, though (2, Informative)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027527)

This always disheartens me a little, and my response is usually just "Huh. Well, the PSP may be trailing the DS in total market share and trailing the GBA in day-to-day sales, and it may have a game library roughly as vibrant as the Jaguar, but I guess those UMD sales must be really popular. After all, if they weren't popular, why else would Wal-Mart be giving then so much well-placed shelf space?"

The obvious guess would be that Sony is paying for shelf space. It's a common arrangement in retail.

Re:Also at Walmart, though (1)

Uncle Warthog (311922) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028630)

This always disheartens me a little, and my response is usually just "Huh. Well, the PSP may be trailing the DS in total market share and trailing the GBA in day-to-day sales, and it may have a game library roughly as vibrant as the Jaguar, but I guess those UMD sales must be really popular. After all, if they weren't popular, why else would Wal-Mart be giving then so much well-placed shelf space?"

The obvious guess would be that Sony is paying for shelf space. It's a common arrangement in retail.

The other one is that they're using the shelf space and flashy display to get people to buy them because they aren't selling well.

Re:Also at Walmart, though (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027587)

"Huh. Well, the PSP may be trailing the DS in total market share and trailing the GBA in day-to-day sales, and it may have a game library roughly as vibrant as the Jaguar, but I guess those UMD sales must be really popular. After all, if they weren't popular, why else would Wal-Mart be giving then so much well-placed shelf space?"

That's thinking backwards (though, admittedly, retailers think backwards all of the time, so I can see why you might think that way). Why push inventory that's already selling through? Why expend the effort to get something out in front of people that they're already buying in mass when you have backstock of stuff that isn't moving? You get the stuff that isn't moving out in front of people to get them to think about it and try to get them to buy it - because you don't want to be stuck with leftover inventory (even if its returnable - it costs money to ship stuff back). If the stuff in the back has good sell-through, there's no reason to push it at all - people are looking for it and buying it without your pushing it on them, so burn through the crap that isn't selling, then move that stuff back to the front once you don't need to worry about your inventory of non-selling crap.

Plus, another thing to think about in "big box retail" is that deals are often cut between manufacturers and retailers. Sony was pushing a new format - they probably gave Wal*Mart a sweet deal in exchange for a prime selling point in the stores. Wal*Mart would then be obligated to live up to the contract, or break the contract with a penalty. If Wal*Mart thought that the PSP and UMD movies were going to be hot, I can see why they'd agree to such a deal.

Re:Also at Walmart, though (2, Insightful)

SuperMog2002 (702837) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027593)

Probably the last option (something going on behind the scenes.) My understanding is that many stores (Wal-Mart included) actually sell the best shelf space to the highest bidder. Why is the Wolf brand chili being displayed prominantly next to the hot dogs when the rest of the chili is eight aisles down? Because the company that makes Wolf brand chili paid Wal-Mart a lot of money.

same reason the milk is at the back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028434)

frustrating yes, but unfortuneatly the same reason the milk is at the back, they know you have to get so maybe they can entice you to pick up something else on your way back there.

duh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026946)

Anyone with an ounce of brains could have predicted this. I realize we're talking about movie studio executives here, but surely at least one of their assistants qualifies?

This is a preview of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray for movies (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026957)

This is a preview of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray for movies.
Normal people will not bother for a high-def, high-priced, super-DRM'd version of a movie that is available on regular DVD.

I predict it will sell like bonkers for backup media, though.

Re:This is a preview of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray for mov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027510)

I would actually anticipate that High-definition audio formats would be similar to what you will see with High definition DVDs. The similarities are that the average person doesn't have the set-up to take advantage of the new format, the cost of the set up is massive, even if you have the set-up the difference between the current format (CD,DVD) to the new format (SA-CD/DVD-A,Blu-Ray/HD-DVD) are less then impressive, and the lack of a unified format will prevent people from buying into the high-definition format. The only thing that remains to kill these formats is for a movement towards digital distribution of content (in the case of audio MP3).

UMD died, on the other hand, because it was a niche product that was marketed poorly and was far too expensive. Portable Gaming systems, unlike movie players, are usually used frequently in short bursts (like 30 minutes at a time) thus there should have been a greater focus on television content that was inexpensive (as in 5-10 episodes of a show for $5-$10); people would have been willing to pay $10 per week to keep themselves occupied whilst taking the transit for a week.

Forward-compatibility (1)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027635)

The trick here is that both blu-ray and hd-dvd have demonstrated technologies that allow for a disc to be a blu-ray disc AND a dvd disc, or an hd-dvd disc AND a normal dvd disc. The idea is that both formats are able to support the inclusion of a normal-DVD layer alongside the next-gen-dvd one, such that the next-gen-dvd player will see the next-gen layer and a normal dvd player just sees the normal-dvd layer and thinks it's playing a normal DVD.

This seems like the only hope either of these formats have, to me. It seems to me many retailers would be loath to give up shelf space, much less shelf space of the oh-so-profitable DVDs, for an unproven format-- much less two at once. But if retailers are faced with the proposition, "hey, if you buy these DVDs, you can sell them to your existing DVD customers, but they're also blu-rays or hd-dvds or whatnot", that would seem to be a lot more palatable. This means that retailers or consumers or whatnot don't have to accept the new format; they can just go on buying their normal DVDs while blu-ray or hd-dvd quietly takes over the world in the background.

I wonder which consortium (blu-ray or hd-dvd) will be the first to realize this. Last I heard, though the forward-compatible discs had been demonstrated for both formats, no one had announced plans to actually sell any forward-compatible discs for either format.

Re:Forward-compatibility (1)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15029004)

While forward compatibility might well get the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD on the shelves, if there is no additional content over regular DVD, then people will lose interest (particularly if they are more expensive than DVD.

While many feature films either come packed to the gills with extra features, they are not always that worthwhile. I mean, once you've seen the trailer, is anyone other than a completist bothered about the "slightly different trailer"? I reckon that most BR/HD will end up left blank, but one or other format will end up succeeding as an archive format (unlike the limjited success of DVD-RAM)

Aww, poor Sony (5, Funny)

vslashg (209560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027005)

And they had such a good track record going into this too, what with the MiniDisc, MicroMV and its predecessor Digital 8, BetaMax...

UMD was invented by a can't-miss tech company and supplied the market of people who wanted a second full-price, lower-resoultion copy of hit movies for their myriad of UMD players. So, you know, I'm shocked.

The bullet and the gun (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027050)

I was pretty sure from the moment I heard about the UMD movies that they wouldn't be likely to succeed. I was 100% sure after I found out that sony pointed the gun at their feet, and gave consumers the bullet when they provided the tool to convert movies to watch them off the memory stick. Hmm.. Free vs cha-ching? Then there's the battery power issue. Flash memory takes a fraction of the power that a spinning motor does.

It's still a cool machine. I'd buy one if they opened it up for indie development (I can't develop, but I'd pay for original games). I'd even consider it for multiplayer if the thing would charge (or even just run off the A/C adaptor) with bluetooth enabled.

Re:The bullet and the gun (1)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027357)

I'd even consider it for multiplayer if the thing would charge (or even just run off the A/C adaptor) with bluetooth enabled.

PSP doesn't have bluetooth. It does have wifi though, which you can (unsurprisingly) use while charging.

Re:The bullet and the gun (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027474)

My bad, wifi. You can use it while charging, but it drains the battery even when the charger is plugged in. You even get a warning on screen warning you that it drains the battery. Pretty sick.

Re:The bullet and the gun (1)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027730)

Wow - you're right - I didn't know this. A quick read of the PSP manual states that you can't charge while the WLAN is in use. Weird. Oh well, you learn something new every day :)

If they would just bundle them... (3, Insightful)

Evanrude (21624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027076)

The problem with the UMD adoption has been the freaking price! I am not going to pay $20-$30 for a UMD movie when I can pay $15 for the DVD and rip it to my memory stick.
The approach they should have taken would be to bunlde the UMD with the DVD for an extra $5. When you buy the movie, you have paid for the rights to view it privately. The UMD is just another piece of $5 media.

Oh well, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

Re:If they would just bundle them... (2, Funny)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027775)

you realize that by doing this you're an EVIL PIRATE! HARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR MATEYYYYSSS...

Sony Ninjas will soon be coming over to your house to chop you in half for attacking their precious flawed business model.

Re:If they would just bundle them... (1)

cornface (900179) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028728)

The approach they should have taken would be to bunlde the UMD with the DVD for an extra $5.

If only they had thought of this [] !

Pretty much figured this out months ago (1)

The Faywood Assassin (542375) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027090)

No one's watching movies on PSP

I figured it was the beginning of the end when I saw JOE DIRT for the PSP. Now there's a movie I wouldn't even pirate, much less buy a second time for a PSP (if I had one


London Bridge is . . . (2, Insightful)

Profcrab (903077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027119)

Really, who didn't see this coming? Movies that required a $300 device to play and were lower resolution than DVDs? Sony did not push the format any further. They didn't make cheaper players for the UMDs to make them an alternative mobile option to larger, and easier to scratch, DVDs. They also, of course, didn't license the technology to anyone else to expand the market. What do they say about people that repeatedly do the same thing but expect different results each time?

Re:London Bridge is . . . (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027283)

" Movies that required a $300 device to play and were lower resolution than DVDs?"

Resolution isn't the problem. The resolution of the PSP is fine. The problem is the inability to play it on TV. No video out on the PSP, no Sony DVD player with a UMD slot. Frankly, I'm amazed that Sony is this stupid. With 1.5 gigs of storage, they could not only have stored a DVD quality MPEG 4 (or related) version of the movie, they could ALSO have provided a PSP optimized version of the movie on the same disc. (Assuming this is even necessary considering the PSP's ability to resize imagery etc.) If Sony had gone in this direction, the purchase of UMD media would have been based on different factors. It would ask people to buy their format instead of DVD, as opposed to buying it along with a DVD. The PSP would have been a nice touch to get people to 'invest' in their new movie purchases.

Would that have worked? Elephino. At the very least, though, more thought would have been put into the whole UMD purchase decision.

Surprise, Surprise (3, Insightful)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027142)

Honestly, who didn't see this coming? PSP UMD had all the earmarks of a failure waiting to happen: overpriced, proprietary, underpowered (battery-wise), tiny screen.

Here's what could've made the PSP *the* device to own: the ability to burn your own UMDs with photos or videos or whatever without the need for any proprietary hardware or software. A disc-based, portable image/video sharing device -- properly marketed and with proper competition from other companies -- could have created a new "must have" device that would be almost as ubiquitous as cell phones.

This mega-corps are gonna have to stop thinking about what they want (expensive, proprietary, restricted devices) and start thinking about what consumers want (afforable, open, and easy-to-use devices), or else I will continue to write angry rants!

Re:Surprise, Surprise (2, Informative)

radish (98371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027309)

Errr....this is about UMD movies, not the PSP. You can do everything you mention on a PSP now by using a memory stick instead of UMD. That's really the problem with UMD, I watch video on my PSP all the time but I do it from MS not UMD.

The PSP itself really isn't a failure - go read the article on 1up the other day, they say that in the US it's essentially level with the DS in sales. That's not bad for a market newcomer.

Re:Surprise, Surprise (1)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027805)

Outside of the US, it's getting its clock cleaned by the DS. Both are getting their clocks cleaned by the different GBA models. What about iPod video vs. PSP? There's a comparison I'd like to see.

Re:Surprise, Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027455)

"or else I will continue to write angry rants!"

megacorpsv("No! Not that! Anything but that!");

No Special Features (2, Interesting)

Michael Spencer Jr. (39538) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027175)

Blockbuster Video's UMD cases have slots for two UMDs for a reason, you know.

If they would start including the same special features as found on DVDs, using two UMDs to do it if necessary, I would buy more UMD movies.

haha (-1, Troll)

chrnb (243739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027214)

MUAHAHHAHAHA!!!! sony fails again! ^^

Not like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027239)

Of course UMD movies are not going to work. How hard is it to reencode a DVD you own into a PSP's format? It's a little more cost effective to watch it off the memory stick.

UMD - Good idea, bad implementation (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027271)

The way I see it is that they should Sell DVD's for, lets say $20 (or whatever) Now, instead of selling the UMD for $20, they should sell a DVD+UMD bundle for $25 or so. The UMD idea is great, but if the PSP is the only thing I can view it on, it's not worth $20+

stupid idea (1)

Intangion (816356) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027288)

it was a stupid idea at best, i wouldnt doubt MPAA or similar groups had some part in pushing sony towards such a retarded plan in the first place, so that they could have yet another way of selling the same content

in publishers dreamworlds we would all buy all the movies in every available format ;)
watch it in theatre.. buy it on Dvd, HD-DVD, blueray-DVD, UMD, pay-per-view..

get busy consumers!

PSP is an ideal travel device (2, Interesting)

rockmuelle (575982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027294)

I found this story about 18 hours after watching the Battlestar Galactica miniseries on a PSP on a plane. So, there's at least one person watching movies on the PSP. Of course, I ripped it to a memory stick and didn't watch it from UMD (in fact, I've never watched a UMD movie).

I'm really disappointed in Sony for their positioning of the PSP. It has so much more potential than as a vessel for movie sales. I take it with me whenever I travel and use it as my primary entertainment, Web, and email device (using a home-grown Web mail app with a UI designed specifically for the PSP - one of a few Web apps I've developed to deliver content in PSP-sized Web pages (sorry, no links as my server can't handle the /. effect)). In fact, at the conference I just attended, there was "contention" for my laptop and I was stuck with just the PSP. It actually turned out to be adequate (though a chat client would have been nice). Text entry was a little annoying, but that's about it.

I really wish Sony would get on the ball with a suite of productivity/connectivity apps. They don't need to be complex, just enough to talk to IMAP/Exchange/iCal/Chat and get me the info I need one the road (I'm not in sales, so my needs are modest). Or even just offer an open development kit so those of us with fulfilling day jobs can hack together little PSP tools.

Productivity + Games + (non-UMD) Movies + Music in one small device is great for travelling...



Re:PSP is an ideal travel device (1)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027500)

What mail / web program do you use for your PSP?
I've been hanging out for a decent one for a very long time - the ones that are rips of game browsers are nasty.

It all depends on your FW version too - I am sticking to 1.5 just because I like the freedom of it - homebrew etc

Re:PSP is an ideal travel device (1)

rockmuelle (575982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028151)

I use a custom Web app I wrote in Python using IMAP to talk to our mail server. It's great for reading email. I also use Yahoo mail from the Web browser for my Yahoo account, but lately they've added a lot of Javascript features that use up the available memory and make the experience less enjoyable. Of course, this is all using the Web browser in the 2.x firmware. :(

We initially intended to do a homebrew version of the Mail app (the Web app was supposed to be a UI prototype), but upgraded our PSPs to 2.x before realizing the problems the upgrade caused. Of course, there was also the catch 22 with the browser - we needed 2.x for the browser to prototype but that made homebrews difficult.

Cleaning the mail app up and posting it online is on my short list of projects. It'll show up on my Web page sometime in the next few months (


Re:PSP is an ideal travel device (1)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028612)

Thanks - Great to hear homebrew coding isn't dead - but it's definitely harder with 2.X firmware :)

PSP is dying (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027311)

The PSP is dying, not just the UMD format. I've got a PSP and one of the launch games and that's it. Liberty City Stories, the only big PSP game, is hitting the PS2, but even if it didn't, I wouldn't have bought the PSP just for that. Me & My Katamari got cancelled. It's dead, Jim.

Re:PSP is dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15027955)

Me and My Katamari was not cancelled.

Re:PSP is dying (1)

demon (1039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028255)

"Me & My Katamari" cancelled? Uh, you might ought to break the news to Gamestop [] and other retailers - they seem to be under the delusion that they have copies to sell. Did they just imagine them?

Re:PSP is dying (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028377)

Uh, actually it came out last week.

The $40 price tag on games that cost $20 for the PS2 is what's killing the PSP. Who wants to pay $40 for something you can get cheaper elsewhere?

Re:PSP is dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028625)

I have Me and My Katamari in my hand, picked it up at the shop last night.


Blu-ray?? (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027342)

So far Sony has demonstrated the amazing ability to pick the WRONG format every time - Beta, Mini-disc, memory stick, and now UMD. What's this say about the coming Blu-ray vs. HD battle? Seems to me Sony's biggest problem is not technology but internal conflicts within Sony and external channel conflict. Internally, the content producing divisions want the consumer electronics division to cripple hardware and load it up with all sorts of DRM. Externally, content providers are wary of handing a standard to another content provider. Somehow the consumer gets left out completely. Not exactly a model for business success.

Re:Blu-ray?? (1)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028680) 36 []

"Universal Studios Home Entertainment has completely stopped producing UMD movies, according to executives who asked not to be identified by name. Said one high-ranking exec: "It's awful. Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb -- like Blu-ray.""

Would say a lot more if Universal were backing BD-ROM at all but having a real executive state an opinion is good.

No wonder... (1)

dalmiroy2k (768278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027354)

The problem with UMD is that only the PSP can play them, so you can't watch the movie in your tv, in your pc or in a friend's place. I mean, how many times are you gonna play the same UMD movie you just bought? 2 times max?
Most people who got the free Spider-man 2 UMD that came with the system a while ago only played the movie once, and most didn't even watched it completely.
Also, upcoming Video Ipod with widescreen and Tv out will finish UMD for good.

sony will never learn (1)

realilskater (76030) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027411)

It is apparent that Sony is never going to learn that closed formats don't work. If they would have licensed the UMD for other uses they might have done a little better. They still might not have succeeded but at least it might appear to have a chance. When I first saw the UMD I was thinking this would be a great replacement for CDs. The mini disk floundered but with the UMDs larger size it appeared it might have a chance. Them is traditional Sony fashion they locked down the format killing all chances of wide adoption. This is the same reason I refuse to buy a Vaio. I could just as easily buy a cheaper more functional laptop that doesn't use expensive proprietary memory sticks.

Open is better.

Bring Out The Cheesecake! (1)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027436)

Sony just cannot seem to cut a break these days. I suppose when they officially pronounce UMD movies dead, they'll blame those darn pirates who have given people the idea that they should be able download movies or rip them from their own DVDs to play on anything they like. Darn pirates! Seriously, digital distribution is the big threat to physical media of any current format.

Anyway, I suppose we should start seeing some fire sales of UMD movies to clear existing stock. Here's my own semi-lame attempt to have some fun with this! [] Bring on the B movies and go out in blaze of cheesecake!

UMD (1)

szembek (948327) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027729)

Uncles of Mass Destruction?

Time for investing (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027879)

1. Go buy all the UMD movies you can find 2. Shove them in the closet and leave them for 20 years 3. Sell them one at a time to rabid fanboys on E-Bay

Consider (1)

Blinocac200sx (955087) | more than 8 years ago | (#15027894)

for a moment that for the price of a PSP you can get a DS and a portable DVD player, and a movie and a game. I'm just shocked it's lasted this long.

Open the UMD Format (2, Insightful)

relyter (696205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028102)

I was very excited when the PSP first came out because the premise of the UMD media was so great. I have become rather tired of scratched DVDs the refuse to play, and the premise of a smaller disk that includes a protective shield was quite attractive. I had hoped the sony would open the UMD so the consumers could use them not only for PSPs but also for data storage in general. I could see the UMD replacing compact disks and supplementing DVDs for data storage on a grand scale (they hold 1.8 gigs). If sony would permit the use of UMD as more than a proprietary format, I would think that they would have a great success. I suspect the reason that they haven't done this is to thwart pirates...

Irregardless, it would be rather nice to be able to put music videos or other movies on a tiny disc that you could watch just about anywhere.

The solution to all of life's problems... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15028241)

Porn. Start selling porn movies on UMD, and you will turn it into an instant hit. And I'm only partly joking.

Hopefully Apple is paying attention (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028556)

Movies on micro screens just don't work, period.

Few people can really dedicate 90+ minutes to watch a full length movie. Sure, video podcasts, TV shows and music videos make sense, as people can watch them for 30 - 60 minutes without interruption, but movies are just too long for mobile formats.

Plus, I find that these small screens like PSP and iPod don't refresh fast enough, so the movies are often blurry and give me a headache. I also get a neck ache trying to bend over my PSP to watch the Spider-man 2 movie that came with it. I could only watch about 15 minutes before I gave it up as futile.

Sony's biggest mistake was offering no TV out connectivity for the PSP. UMD's might have been a marginal success (instead of a dismal failure) if Sony just decided to put a video out on the PSP. Actually, the PSP might have been a bigger success if you could play both movies and games on a TV. It doesn't have to by HD by a long shot, but standard Def playback is standard on the iPod, why not the PSP?

But Apple should pay attention before launching into full feature movie sales. At least Apple has the ability to connect to television, which may be their saving grace, but I think full length movies for portable players is a failed concept. Movies are not like music that is played in 5 minute intervals, nor are they like books you can stop and start at a later time. I prefer to watch a movie in its entirety in once sitting, and rarely do I find myself in a situation where I am spending 90+ minutes sitting down with free time on my hands, even at home.

I watch plenty of movies on my PSP... (2, Interesting)

dannycim (442761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15028991)

... Just not on UMD. I've been disappointed by the catalog, so I just convert my DVDs to MP4 PSP format, put them on my 2G stick and watch them anywhere I go. I prefer video files anyway, because they start in an instant, whereas UMD movies require spin-up and seeking. I think Sony should have made all media downloadable, including games (with DRM of course), put emphasis on larger flash storage (maybe 1G standard), and they could have saved a lot on the hardware costs. Plus, the units would have been much thinner.

I've had a PSP on me since the launch. It's replaced my MP3 player and given me lots more stuff to do. I got Daxter yesterday and it's fun!

The new high capacity batteries mean that I have to charge it only once every two commute days now.
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