Wednesday, September 26, 2007

DirecTV HD part of nefarious plan to control TV

DirecTV launched 21 new high definition channels Wednesday morning, officially kicking off its plans to get more of the high dollar customers who pay premium prices for next-generation offerings like HDTV and video on demand.

DirecTV now offers 31 HD channels and promises to add 18 more in two weeks and 70 by the end of October. At the end of the year, DirecTV has plans for up to 100 HD channels.

Comcast added five new HD channels to its lineups Wednesday to try to answer DirecTV's salvo: A&E HD, Food Network, HGTV, National Geographic and the NFL Network.

Late Wednesday, DISH announced several new HD networks: Altitude Sports and Entertainment (ch. 360), known as the television home of the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche; Comcast Sports Net Mid-Atlantic (ch. 374), providing extensive coverage of professional teams from Washington, D.C.; Comcast Sports Net West (ch. 359), featuring Sacramento Kings basketball; and FOX Sports Ohio (ch. 375), delivering coverage of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Currently, DISH and DirecTV are the kings of HD channels, well ahead of cable and Verizon's FIOS service. DirecTV's new HD channels, which require a new dish and receiver for older customers, are better looking than DISH, which has to compress its HD channels more due to less satellite capacity.

Cable has similar bandwidth problems and cannot offer as many channels currently.

DirecTV's new channels look nearly as good as what customers can get with an off-air antenna and as good as FIOS, which had been the industry standard.

DirecTV is also getting ready to launch its video-on-demand service, which will use high speed internet to help deliver content. VOD is one huge advantage cable has had over satellite. Currently in field trials, DirecTV's service allows you to record up to three shows at once -- two live shows and one from the internet.

Having seen DirecTV's new channels for a few hours, I am amazed at the quality and clarity. These are as good as over-the-air. I hope it stays that way.

If it does, and DirecTV makes their HD-DVR free or basically free, it could win the HD war before everyone else can get their answers ready.

Here is a list of DirecTV's new channels:

1. A&E (Channel 265)
2. Animal Planet (Channel 282)
3. Big Ten Network (Channel 220)
4. CNN (Channel 202)
5. The Discovery Channel (Channel 278)
6. The History Channel (Channel 269)
7. The Movie Channel East (Channel 544)
8. NFL Network (Channel 212)
9. Showtime West (Channel 540)
10. Showtime too (Channel 538)
11. The Smithsonian Channel (Channel 267)
12. The Science Channel (Channel 284)
13. Starz Comedy (Channel 519)
14. Starz East (Channel 522)
15. Starz West (Channel 540)
16. Starz Edge (Channel 520)
17. Starz Kids and Family (Channel 518)
18. TBS (Channel 247)
19. TLC (Channel 280)
20. Versus / The Golf Channel (Channel 604)
21. The Weather Channel (Channel 362)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Got Halo? How is it?

It's less than two hours until area stores begin to sell what's anticipated to be the biggest videogame of all time, Halo 3.

A recent price cut has helped sales of the Xbox 360 spike and this release could push an even bigger sales spike for Microsoft.

"Halo 2" generated a record $125 million in U.S. sales in the first day. "Halo 3," created by Bungie Studios and exclusive to the Xbox 360, is expected to easily top that.

I've heard that more than a few of you, um, older gamers are planning to take vacation days or sick days to accommodate some marathon "Halo 3" sessions tonight and tomorrow.

More than 10,000 U.S. retailers are planning to open their doors at midnight Sept. 25 to allow early birds to get their game first.

Other advance events:

• Pontiac is teaming with Microsoft to provide 1,000 lucky winners a copy of "Halo 3" before it's available in stores. To participate, visit

• David Stremme will drive the No. 40 Target/"Halo 3"-inspired race car at the NASCAR Dover 400 on Sept. 23. Select NASCAR drivers will have a chance to test-drive "Halo 3" during a private event before the race.

• Best Buy stores will give free Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions to customers Sept. 25-27. The company also will give away 8,000 Microsoft Points to 144 randomly selected people.

• Microsoft will release a $399 Xbox 360 "Halo 3" Special Edition Console, featuring an authentic Spartan green and gold finish. The unit will come with a matching Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, a 20-gigabyte hard drive, a headset and a Play & Charge Kit.

Simpson in the news again

O.J. Simpson was named a suspect in a confrontation at a Las Vegas casino hotel room involving sports memorabilia last week. Simpson denied breaking into a hotel room to get sports memorabilia he said belonged to him.News also broke last week that Simpson received $50,000 from 2K Sports to lend his likeness to its "All Pro Football'' title released in July. Simpson was ordered to surrender his earnings to the estate of Ron Goldman, who was slain along with Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, 13 years ago.

The Goldmans won a $33.5 million judgment against Simpson in a wrongful death lawsuit. Simpson was acquitted of criminal charges in 1995 but was found legally responsible for their deaths in a civil court two years later.

Madden Challenges kick off

The new year of Madden Challenges -- designed to find the best Madden players in the world -- kicked off Sept. 15 in Dallas, Texas.

This year, there will be competitions on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2. Regional winners will take home $1,000 plus other prizes and advance to the national finals later this year in California.

There will be no regional in Charlotte, though events will be held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27 and Atlanta on Nov. 10. For a complete list of locations and more details, visit

College football gamers to vie for national title

First, there was the "Madden Challenge." Now, EA Sports has launched the "NCAA Football Challenge" in an effort to find the best college football video gamer in the country.

The tournament, which uses the "NCAA Football 08" game, started Thursday at Southern Cal and will hit major college campuses throughout the country -- including Georgia Tech and Virginia -- throughout the next few months. Each campus visit will feature two days of competition.

To see the schedule, see

"We're creating the opportunity for gamers across the country to compete and find out who's the best at NCAA Football 08," said Brian Movalson, marketing director for EA Sports.

The two finalists get a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in January.

Consistent with all other challenges in the "EA Sports Challenge Series," the "EA Sports NCAA Football Challenge" also will have an online component where competitors play against other online players.

Winners from the registered online tournament will then compete against winners of the regional tournaments for a trip to the Rose Bowl finals and a chance to compete along with the "college campus" tournament winners for the $10,000 grand prize.

Game-designing contest

Ever wanted to be a part of the design team for a video game?Konami Digital Entertainment will give fans of the "Contra 4" mobile game a chance to do just that.

To participate, visit and enter your sketches for new characters in the game. The promotion runs through Oct. 1.

Konami will announce 20 finalists on Oct. 7. The ultimate winner will have his or her character included in the final release of the game -- and probably launch a new career.

Sales update

The NPD Group, which tracks the video game industry, has released its August sales report.

A few notes:

• Software sales are up 22 percent to $488 million, with the "Madden 08" titles dominating game charts. "Madden" for Xbox 360 was the top seller (896,600), followed by the PS2 version, "Bioshock" for Xbox 360, and "Madden" for PS3.

The Nintendo Wii and DS again were hardware sales kings. Xbox 360 sales went up (276,700 from 170,000 in July). PS3 sales went down (130,000 from 159,000).

• Combined game hardware and software sales were up to $993 million, well past the $669 million of August 2006.

• Year-to-date, the industry is up 43 percent overall in sales compared to 2006.

News and Notes

• Xbox 360 owners with the Xbox Live service can get a sneak peak at 2K Sports' upcoming title over the next week. The free downloadable demo of "NBA 2K8" -- due in stores on Oct. 2 -- includes a four-minute exhibition game.

The new release, the game maker says, will have "a host of new contact animations that bring a new level of physical play in the post and while playing defense, new offball play system, and hundreds of new Signature Style animations that capture all the jump shot, dribble, and dunk moves performed by every major NBA athlete."

Now, that's a mouthful.

• A new Lara Craft "Tomb Raider" game is being readied for a holiday release. The game is being totally redesigned for the Nintendo Wii system. Should be interesting.

• Nintendo and Future US are teaming to publish Nintendo Power magazine, which offers tips, tricks, reviews, maps and strategies each month. Formerly produced in-house by Nintendo of America, Nintendo Power covers all Nintendo gaming systems and their associated first-, second- and third-party software.

VIDEO GAMES Langston Wertz Jr.
Get more games news at; reach Langston at 704-358-5133 or

DirecTV set to launch 70 new HD channels

If you have DirecTV, you may want to tune to channels 9300 and 9301 right now (7 p.m., 9/24) where DirecTV is testing some of its new high definition channels, which will launch Tuesday or Wednesday.

The satellite provider says it will provide up to 70 HD channels by the end of October and as many as 100 by the end of the year. That will put DirecTV well in front of other cable and satellite providers when it comes to HD programming, and best of all, early reports show that DirecTV will not overly compress the feeds to save bandwidth as many providers are doing.

This means viewers will get crystal clear pictures. There have been many complaints about satellite and cable providers downgrading HDTV pictures mainly to save bandwidth. For the uninitiated, so-called "downrezzed" HD looks miles better than standard digital or analog programming but it doesn't compare to true HD, which you can see via an antenna in most markets, including Charlotte.

I just looked at DirecTV's test channels and if the new HD channels have this quality, there will be a lot of high paying customers switching to get images this good on their flat screens.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No videogames without good grades

There's a GameStop in Texas where the store owner won't let kids buy videogames unless an adult confirms that child has good grades.

Check it out