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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Console Publishers Poised to Migrate to DVD

7 Sep, 2001 By: David Ward

After noting the success the movie industry has had with DVD, video game publishers are now poised to begin their transition from cartridges andCDs to the larger disc-based medium.

At the DVD Entertainment Forum last month, Shiny Entertainment founderDavid Perry predicted game makers will mimic the film studios by including value-added features such as “making-of” videos and multiple language tracks once console games move to DVD.

“What we've learned from the movie industry is that type content works with consumers,” he added.

Robert Huebner, v.p. and director of technology with Nihilistic Software, explained that part of the reason publishers are finallytaking a serious look at DVD is that the size of games continues to grow. “Because of competitive pressures, a lot of new products havegraphics and enhanced game play that end up needing four CDs,” he said.

“You're going from 8-bit graphics to 24-bit color which make your file sizes incredibly large.” Huebner added, “The only reason that PlayStation 2 games are currently coming out on multiple CDs rather than DVD is purely manufacturingcosts.”

But with DVD replication and media costs coming down, it's now beginning to make sense for publishers to make the transition, he said. “Even if you had a small game that would fit on a CD, it would still be advisable to put it on a DVD because it would make it more difficult tocopy,” Huebner said.

One company, Dublin, Ireland-based Bromat, has already begun a courtship of the console game industry in anticipation of a move to DVD. The privately held Bromat (www.bromat.com) plans to work with developers todevelop advertising supported entertainment content that would be related to the original game and appear on the same disc.

This corporate-sponsored content would be 45-60 minutes long on average and could include everything from music videos of artists featured in the game's soundtrack to documentary-like side stories that wouldinvolve the game's characters. “Our productions will supplement the actual value of the game itself,” says Eoin Matthews, Bromat's secretary for business development. “Our productions will have their ownentertainment value built in, but will be interactive and dynamic as well.”

Matthews says Bromat has already received an initial go ahead from Microsoft and Sony Computer Entertainment to at least look into buildingsponsored content onto DVD console game discs, adding, “We have clearance from them with the proviso that they have an approval gate on production.”

Microsoft and Sony had not returned calls by press timewith comment. Nintendo's initial launch plans don't include DVD for GameCube, Matthews said. Bromat won't be working with them “for the short term,” but he adds, “We definitely want to work on GameCube and the publishers are very excited about it.”

Bromat is currently in talks with about 10 high-profile game companies, which Matthews won't name, although he suggests they include bothEuropean and American publishers. What the company is offering is a potential new revenue stream. “It doesn't cost them anything and it gives them additional revenue from advertising,” Matthews explains, adding the company's internal projections show publishers could eventually earn between $1-$3 in advertising revenue for each softwareunit sold.

Matthews predicts console developers will move to DVD formats as soon as next year, adding enhancements such as digital audio are already pushing the capacity limits of 650 Mb CD discs. “When they move to the 4.7 Gbstage we imagine that 30% to 50% of the DVD space will beavailable,” he says.

Bromat has been in contact with potential advertisers eager for an opportunity to reach the young male demographic. The company has also done some consumer testing that indicates gamers would be interested inadditional content — even if advertising supported — provided it adds entertainment value to the game.

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