PlayTV, BD

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia gathered the media earlier this month to promote VidZone and some other upcoming features on PS3 and PSP. While it was interesting to see the highlights of the company’s roadmap for the next few months, it was also notable for what they didn’t discuss, namely the hot topics of last year’s 2008 confab,PlayTV and BD-Live.

PlayTV, as announced 12 months ago, was to have been the PS3’s answer to PVRs. A hardware add-on that would let you watch, pause and record free-to-air TV through a connection to a PS3. PlayTV also showed potential to move recorded shows to PSP or store them to an external hard drive.

When we asked a Sony spokesperson why it was not launched pre-Christmas last year as planned, we were told that PlayTV was in fact launched in Europe, but with standard-definition tuners, instead of the dual-high-definition tuners planned for Australia. Since all of the product development for this country is based out of Europe, and the SD product fills the (bigger) market need there, launching an HD PlayTV box in Australia has been postponed indefinitely.

While not quite so dead-in-the-water, BD-Live functionality is off to a very slow start. With an internet-enabled player, BD-Live-supported Blu-ray discs let you access a range of theoretically “live” — as in constantly updated — extras, such as user-generated scene commentary, ringtones, wallpapers, up-to-the-minute movie trailers and the like. The technology is not exclusive to Sony, yet PlayStation 3 was the first Blu-ray player on the market here with BD-Live functionality.

The problem on this front is the dearth of BD-Live content. At last year’s launch there were two titles available with the technology, Lionsgate’s 3:10 to Yuma and Saw IV. Nearly 12 months on, the number of BD-Live-enabled titles in Australia would hardly take up much shelf space in your disc library. Most notable on the small list so far are the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) titles Men in Black, Vantage Point and Pineapple Express, and Iron Man and Transformers from Paramount.

Disney announced its commitment to BD-Live features in all new releases in the US last year, but as yet, no BD-Live Disney titles have found their way to Australia. Warner Bros in the US has also announced that viewers of the Watchmen: Director’s Cut Blu-ray disc will be able to sync their BD-Live buddy list to chat with their friends on Facebook, but again no word on the availability of BD-Live titles from Warner Bros locally.

The outlook is a little brighter as SPHE plans to release 40 new BD titles in Australia by the end of 2009 including Twilight, Terminator Salvation, Angels & Demons, and classics such as Ghost Busters (25th anniversary edition) and Groundhog Day. Whether there will soon be enough titles with compelling, interactive features to make the BD-Live concept really take off remains to be seen.

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