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Displays Graphics Games

Console Makers Scaling Back Their Push For HD 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-is-not-hard dept.
The big news about game consoles of late are the recent price drops and hardware changes. However, an editorial at GamesIndustry looks into one of the side effects of those updates: decisions by both Microsoft and Sony not to include HDMI cables with their HD-capable consoles, despite the companies' long-standing interest in high-definition gaming. "From the perspectives of these companies, they want to include the cable which will be of most utility to the largest group of consumers possible, and it's clear that whatever research they have done suggests that the majority of consumers don't need — or rather, can't use — an HDMI cable. Neither firm wants to put an assortment of cables in the box 'just in case' — each additional cable erodes millions from the firm's profitability, after all. ... Supporting evidence that all is not well with the HD transition comes from Epic Games' Mark Rein, who told Eurogamer earlier this summer that 'over half the users who played Gears of War 2 so far do not have HDTVs.' Gears of War is a core gamer franchise, beloved of early adopters and the [so-called] hardcore. If less than half of those users are playing on HDTVs, what must the percentages be like for games like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer — let alone Singstar and Buzz, or popular movie tie-in titles?"
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Console Makers Scaling Back Their Push For HD

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  • by Shivani1141 (996696) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:52AM (#29329667)
    As a an air-conditioning technician, I work in peoples homes, typically six or more a day. From my own admittedly anecdotal experience, the percentage of my customers who have an HDTV set in the livingroom is quite close to 100. That being said, the "hardcore" "core gamer" markets are often teenaged males who happen to have the family's old set in their bedroom with the console connected to it. I'd argue that the percentage of casual gamers that play using an HDTV is higher than that of the "Hardcore" Gamers.
    • by lukas84 (912874) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:54AM (#29329683) Homepage

      Well, people that have an air-conditioned home aren't exactly of average income...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by corsec67 (627446)

        He didn't say whether he works in Arizona or Alaska.

      • In my state, my income is below the median, but I have air conditioning in my house. It is very nice because of the hot climate, and not really that expensive. Now growing up my parents were well above the median income, and we didn't have AC, because we lived in a cool climate and just opening the windows was all you needed in the summer. We could have afforded it, we just didn't care to.

        I think AC ownership more corresponds with where you live and personal preference than income. While it isn't free, it i

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        You must live in the arctic. Where I'm at EVERYONE has an AC. It's hard to get by in summer without it (I don't mind like it's inconvenient, I mean like you have people keeling over from heat stroke). Whether you're poor or not generally just decides whether you have a window unit (or two) vs central, not whether or not you have one at all.

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        Well, people that have an air-conditioned home aren't exactly of average income...

        Maybe if you take the average income for the entire world ... but with air conditioners going for under $100 for a one-room window unit, and 10,000 btu window units at $250 (buy one of each and you can cool 1,000 square feet on 90 degree days), if you can't afford air conditioning, you probably also can't afford games.

      • by billcopc (196330)

        In what way is air-conditioning a luxury ? A room-sized A/C costs less than a modest HDTV! Only in the U.S. would TV come before comfort...

        From my own anecdotal evidence, I don't think we can realistically draw any correlation between hardcore gamers and HDTV. I've known mad gamers with small TVs, I've know mad gamers with huge TVs (and no furniture!). I have people with big houses and shiny 60" plasmas that are quite content to play the occasional game of NHL 2009 via a the DVI output on their PC, and

    • Yep, that's how it's worked for years. the family set is the nice one in the living room but the gaming machine, whether it be an Atari 2600 30 years ago or a PS3/Xbox360 today is hooked up to a second set that isn't as good. Some old cheapo 13" black and white in the old days or some cheapo 13 inch CRT set with RF inputs or composite (with mono sound) now.

      Until relatively recently, you couldn't buy quality TV's for bedroom/playroom gaming, small sets were designed on the cheap so you had to do without niceties as stereo sound or s-video, let alone component inputs in the PS2 days (pretty much restricted to 25" sets and larger) Course nowadays you can buy relatively inexpensive 15-19" 1080i/720p sets with HDMI and component inputs that are basically monitors with a tuner.

      • by CSMatt (1175471)

        Course nowadays you can buy relatively inexpensive 15-19" 1080i/720p sets with HDMI and component inputs that are basically monitors with a tuner.

        Um, why? At that size, how could there be much benefit from having 1080i, other then sitting right in front of the TV?

        • Well, a lot of people do have their HDTV too far away from their sitting position. The real advantage is the smaller HDTV's often have VGA in as well as HDMI, meaning they can also have a PC hooked up to them. Or you can put them on a desk and use the versatility of the older PS3's to run LInux.

          • by billcopc (196330)

            Or you could just use the versatility of an older PC to run Linux, on a regular ass monitor that costs a third as much.

    • by CSMatt (1175471)

      Just out of curiosity, how many of these households actually received HD programming as well as owned an HD set? I'm willing to bet that most of the Baby Boomer houses with HDTVs in them actually are hooked up to analog cable or to an STB via composite video or even RF, especially since every other TV upgrade in the lives of these customers was a hack to the existing NTSC system, requiring no further upgrades then the set itself.

      The huge percentage of HDTVs does not surprise me, given the heavy (and somewh

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        Just out of curiosity, how many of these households actually received HD programming as well as owned an HD set? I'm willing to bet that most of the Baby Boomer houses with HDTVs in them actually are hooked up to analog cable or to an STB via composite video or even RF,

        You don't need to "hook up" an HDTV to anything more complex than a cheap pair of rabbit-ears to receive HD broadcasts - and they might be better quality than what you'll get through your cable company or satellite provider's crappy recompr

        • by CSMatt (1175471)

          I never said that they couldn't receive an HD broadcast, just that most of them are hooked up to receive the SD broadcast, and probably most of the TV owners think that what they are watching is in fact HD. Just because they have the hardware doesn't mean they set it up correctly, and remember 18% of customers can't tell the difference anyway [slashdot.org], so they probably will remain blissfully unaware until someone notices the hookup and tells them.

          I mentioned the Baby Boomer generation in particular because they liv

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            I mentioned the Baby Boomer generation in particular because they lived through the color transition, during which the purchase of a color set gave them the exact same channels they had before in glorious color, while making it painfully obvious which stations were still broadcasting in black and white. The digital transition is far different, requiring separate digital channels and only offering (compared to color anyway) far more subtle improvements in the picture.

            The same set will tune in both HD and S

  • Include Component Cables, or S-Video cables. For that matter. Include S-video and Component Video Jacks. I don't like HDMI.

    • The Xbox360 comes with component. Works great for, at least, 720p (as that's the kind of TV I use it with).

      • by MaineCoon (12585)

        Works great for 1080i too. I imagine 1080p would be fine as well, if my TV supported 1080p via component (only via HDMI on mine, sadly).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by WWWWolf (2428)

        The Xbox360 comes with component. Works great for, at least, 720p (as that's the kind of TV I use it with).

        I have a a-few-years-old TV in my home, everything connected with Composite+SCART. Pretty good picture at PAL 60hz. This summer I finally got a chance to try out what Xbox 360 looks like on (someone else's) HDTV - and damn, the HD picture via HDMI connector looks just marginally bit better than Composite. You can actually tell the difference if you're sitting right next to the screen. (Barely so from the couch.)

        (The TV also had the curious habit of having worse analog picture on 60hz than 50hz. Flat TV are

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The Wii doesn't have digital output, so there is literally no way to have an HDMI cable. These days we call a cable with a fat lump on it like a snake swallowed your mom a "cable" but it's really an adapter with integrated cable, even if it looks more like it's the other way around. With that said, a third party Wii component cable is about three bucks, and will let you see just how grainy and shitty the Wii's video output is. I have an original Xbox on component and it has vastly better quality video than

        • by blincoln (592401)

          the HD picture via HDMI connector looks just marginally bit better than Composite.

          Did you configure the Xbox to run at higher resolution? You have to do that manually. If you configure everything correctly (and if the TV itself supports high resolutions, as opposed to the old 720p HDTVs), the picture will look worlds better, especially in terms of things like on-screen text. If the HDTV supports x.v. Color, you can also turn that on, which is something that can never be done with composite.

    • I don't like HDMI.

      Any particular reason? I haven't had any problems with it, and I'm pushing the limits on it too.

  • As long as a cheap standard HDMI cable [amazon.com] works and i dont have to buy a special-sony/MS/... cable its ok.

  • Uhm, NO! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:26AM (#29329813) Homepage

    Including cables is always a problematic waste. I happen to agree with the summary in that not everyone will use HDMI. But then again, not everyone will use component either. I think it is quite reasonable to not include any cables at all though they should provide the header devices that will allow people to connect ordinary, store-available cables. (So the component video cable should basically provide the female RCA connectors)

    Almost no printer maker provides the cables unless they are USB. And even in those cases, the USB cables are typically wasted because they are usually too short. Many many moons ago, I once spent some time at CompUSA fielding that precise question "Why don't printer makers provide cables?" My simple answer was "Waste! It would be a waste to provide a cable that is too long or too short and the manufacturer has no way of knowing how a customer will set their device up."

    I have seen the more expected installations of xboxes and ps3s where the unit is only inches away from the display unit, but there are also people who want to have the game unit great distances from the display. My brother, for instance, has an overhead projector unit and a drop-down screen with his AV gear in a 19" server rack. Should they waste a cable on him?

    Over-all, I think it is better that they slap a big label on the box "Cables not included" and provide a short list of suggestions on how to make things work or something. This is really not much difference from "Batteries not included." I know, quite a few things still come with batteries... especially remote controls. But toys and other gear rarely do.

    There is no question that providing the cables is a convenient thing. I bought the "Arcade" version of the 360 that came with HDMI output but without a cable... it didn't puzzle me a bit -- I just went to a local discount store and picked one up for cheap... like $8 or something like that. Works fine. I was quite excited that it even came with HDMI out since my first 360 didn't. I just don't think that "cables not included" is a bad thing if they do it right. Retailers just need to know that they should stock an assortment of cables close to their boxes and their sales staff trained to sell the right cables.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > Retailers just need to know that they should stock an assortment of cables close to
      > their boxes and their sales staff trained to sell the right cables.

      And that is probably the reason for this change. Lower the price on the console in theory but let the retailers more than make it up on the cable which has insane margins anyway. Notice that zero retailers of game console or any mass consumer electronics sell inexpensive HDMI cables, even Walmart rapes yer bum pretty hard, they get $19.99 for one a

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Yeah, that is an unfortunate truth too... I have seen HDMI cables that sold for nearly $100. I was dumbfounded at the cost when I had been buying cables for less than $10 elsewhere and never had any problems with them. So I can't disagree with that unfortunate reality either. But on the other hand, isn't it always the educated consumer who wins most often? I'd just as soon accept that little bit of evil in the universe and let those people who prefer not to be educated (and there are people who actually

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          But what about the TV makers? Why shouldn't they provide cables to plug into every input on their TVs? They don't. We know why they don't and we accept it.

          One of the criteria for my tv was that it have vga in and vga audio in. It also has 2 component in, 4 hdmi in, rf in, dual composite+audio in, usb in ... right there, we're talking a LOT of cables. Why should they ship what would probably be the wrong length of cable for each input (my laptop cables are 16') or the wrong end connector (one of the comp

          • by erroneus (253617)

            My point in all that was exactly that. And for the same reasons device makers shouldn't be expected to supply cables. And frankly, some people prefer to use more expensive cables to begin with and never use any of the cables provided. Some people MUST have their monster cables costing more than the price of gold.

  • HDTV input lag (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grieviant (1598761) * on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:37AM (#29329863)

    The hardcore gaming crowd is well aware of the fact that many HDTVs exhibit a significant amount of input lag (delay caused processing and buffering of the video signal in HDTVs). It's the type of thing a casual gamer might not really be aware of until they play on a different TV because you tend to adjust to whatever you're playing on. Most TVs and monitors don't even publish it among the main specs even though it usually dwarfs response time. It really can have a serious effect on gameplay, particularly in fast-paced FPS games (though Gears is rather slow-paced). I didn't really notice the difference until I started playing on a smaller monitor instead of my larger HDTV.

    CRTs are the still best choice for minimizing input lag, but most LCD monitors are decent as well. I'm not sure if this is mainly due to their smaller size or that they're designed for quick response to mouse movement (whereas TVs are designed for viewing, so a few tens of milliseconds extra lag is of no consequence).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Input_lag [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:HDTV input lag (Score:5, Informative)

      by Microlith (54737) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @04:07AM (#29329949)

      It's why most LCD TVs have special modes for game consoles. On my Sharp Aquos it's called "Vyper Drive" but all it does is turn off any processing and scaling, the result being no lag.

      I have this setting active for several analog inputs and the input from my PC and I've had no issues at all with games of any kind on my HDTV.

    • I misread your post and modded it 'overrated'. I read it again and realized I made a mistake. I apologize. I'm posting here to undo that moderation.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @03:46AM (#29329895)

    This has nothing to do with "scaling back" high-def or not, its all about giving the retailers a freebie and saving a buck at the same time.

    Retailers like Best Buy make huge bank on HDMI cables. They are always pushing $100+ Monster-brand cables on unsuspecting customers who buy DVD and BD players. But even if they can't sell a monster cable for a 5000% markup, they can still usually sell a "premium store brand" cable for 1000% mark-up. By leaving the cable out of the box, the console vendors are just bending their customers over so they are lubed, ready and eager to pay for an over-priced cable. Kind of a "you scratch my back, I'll open the guy's wallet for you" between the console maker and the retailer.

    Do yourself and your friends a favor - buy 10 $3 HDMI cables from monoprice.com the next time you need just one cable. Then, whenever you hear about a friend or coworker buying anything HDTV related, offer them one of your monoprice cables for $6 - you'll double your money and your friend will save $20.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Floritard (1058660)
      I'm generally a pretty language-agnostic or even crass kind of guy. I curse like a sailor. But for the love of god can we please stop with the "bending over" and "lubing up" talk when discussing what are really very trivial matters such as retailer dishonesty? It's pretty lame to bilk your customers and nobody really deserves to be treated like that, but it's in no way close to being sodomized. It really isn't. This sort of hyperbole is bordering on a level of absurdity that nearly rivals Godwin's law.

      Re
    • I don't think so (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @05:48AM (#29330269)

      I think it is more about saving money, after all the cables aren't free and they are trying to get prices as low as they can on expensive hardware, and because people don't need or want a "one size fits all" cable. It is a waste of money and of resources to include a cable if people don't need it. What about the people who don't need HDMI, because their gear doesn't support it? There are a lot of TV and receivers without HDMI. What about people who need longer, or shorter, cables?

      To me it seems that electronics should come only with the cables needed to operate and for any proprietary connections. Coming with standard cables is silly, because they probalby aren't that useful.

      In the computer world, this seems to be the way of doing things. My NIC didn't come with a network cable, my soundcard came with a cable to hook up its external box, but didn't come with audio cables, my videocard didn't come with a DVI or VGA cable, and so on. It was left to me to purchase the cables in the length and of the type I required.

      I see the same thing with most high end AV equipment too. It usually comes with power (if applicable) and nothing else. My speakers, amp, and receiver all included either no cables (in the case of speakers) or just power. They figured, correctly, that setups vary and the user could buy what they need. Heck in the case of the receiver I'd hate to get one with all cables included. I don't really want 10 s-video cables just because it happens to have 10 s-video inputs.

      This is particularly true in this day and age of budget places like Monoprice. I could understand including cables back when they were harder to get, and maybe you didn't have any option other than a place that overcharged. Especially for things like the RF adapters that old consoles used. However now it is easy for anyone to get cheap cables of any kind they need. As such it makes sense to me that the equipment doesn't include a cable.

      So I'm guessing cost/waste is more their motivation than making retailers happy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dangitman (862676)

        In the computer world, this seems to be the way of doing things. My NIC didn't come with a network cable, my soundcard came with a cable to hook up its external box, but didn't come with audio cables, my videocard didn't come with a DVI or VGA cable, and so on. It was left to me to purchase the cables in the length and of the type I required.

        On the other hand, I've bought LaCie and Western Digital external hard drives that come with an abundance of cables - a USB cable, a Firewire 400 cable, a Firewire 800 cable, a Firewire 800-to-400 cable and an eSATA cable. These cables would cost so much if bought separately at retail, that it's almost a good idea just to buy one of these drives if you happen to be short of cables, and get a bonus hard drive in the deal.

      • In the computer world, this seems to be the way of doing things. My NIC didn't come with a network cable, my soundcard came with a cable to hook up its external box, but didn't come with audio cables, my videocard didn't come with a DVI or VGA cable, and so on. It was left to me to purchase the cables in the length and of the type I required.

        I see the same thing with most high end AV equipment too. It usually comes with power (if applicable) and nothing else. My speakers, amp, and receiver all included eith

      • "It is a waste of money and of resources to include a cable if people don't need it."

        Actully third parties already produce cheaper cables I got a cable (forget the company, madcatz?) that is a single cable with hookups for the PS2, xbox and gamecube all one one cable and I bought two of them. Oh here it is:

        http://www.madcatz.com/productinfo.asp?page=14&GSProd=2825&GSCat=9&CategoryImg=UNIVERSAL [madcatz.com]

        I don't know why they just don't include one cable with all three types of hookups on them. It makes l

      • I think it is more about making themselves [sonystyle.com] happy.

    • Bingo! You are 100% correct. I base this statement on my own experience in retail, and that of many of my friends.

      The real reason that printers don't include USB cables (or Parallel before them), DVD players and consoles and televisions don't include HDMI cables is that if they do the retailers will flat-out refuse to stock them. The reason? People price-shop for the "big-ticket" portion of their purchase, but don't price-compare accessories. The big-ticket portion is usually sold near cost or even at a sma

  • Neither Sony nor Microsoft have been bundling HDMI cables with their consoles for quite some time, if ever, least not in their mainstream mass-market SKUs. The fact that the latest iterations of their consoles don't include HDMI cables is thus wholly irrelevant.

  • I don't see how console makers are scaling back their push to HD by simply not offering HDMI cables. Sony has never offered them and Microsoft just decided to not include it recently. And given that more and more people have HDTVs I fail to see how standard definition is becoming more relevant.

    However, I'm curious to know how much either company is saving by not offering these cables. The cheapest I've seen HDMI cables go for in stores is about $30, which makes no sense to me. I'm convinced HDMI pricing is

    • Pay a visit to Monoprice.com. Home theater owners love this site's quality cables of many types that are available at prices 1/3 or less than in stores. A good HDMI cable is $3-4 + shipping from these guys.

  • Everyone had a good laugh at Nintendo when they said HD was unnecessary but they were proven right. No surprise there, the company hasbeen around for ages and has the best track record for making a profit and satisfying customers.
  • HDMI cables are a huge scam. You do not, however, have them laying around in your toolbox or parts draw, unlike the ubiquitous RCA cable. I recently had to buy one to go with a BluRay player. As the gods of content protections decree that analog shall never see 1080p, I had to get a cable despite analog connections on all gadgets. The first one the nice person at BestBuy showed me was a $120.00 monster cable. I politely declined, and left with a $29.00 cable from WalMart. Yes, I still paid twice too m
  • by Nemyst (1383049)
    Please remember that HDMI is just a digital HD cable technology! The component (YPbPr) cables that still come with the consoles ARE also HD, just analog HD. It still looks great on a HDTV; the biggest difference is that you don't absolutely need a TV made in the last 4 years to benefit from it as CRTs and older LCD/Plasma TVs had the connectors too.

    Case in point, my Xbox 360 is plugged to my 52" HDTV through component connectors and the picture is very sharp and vivid. It may not equal HDMI, but most cons
  • HD Era is a lie (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Templaris (754690) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:37AM (#29331287)
    Most of the HD resolutions from the consoles are fake anyways, as this article points out. http://insomnia.ac/hardware/the_fake-hd_era/ [insomnia.ac]
  • by jd2112 (1535857)
    So they can sell you a $2.95 HDMI cable for $59.95.
  • Both consoles come with Component cables and the ability to output 1080i video on them, 720p at the very least.

    The quality of the graphics from Component or HDMI is really not noticable for the vast majority of people - the REAL problem comes when you sit down and you have your HDTV with a lot of things connected, and your TV comes with 3 HDMI ports and only 1 set of Component inputs, which you may already be using for your DirecTV DVR..

    The difference? Your XBox will default to 480p if it's using Component

  • Stripping HDMI cables out of the package has nothing to do with the console maker's desire to push HD vs SD. MS and Sony dropped the price of their consoles by $50-100, and to help do that, trimming down on the included cables helps.

    More importantly, retailers like Best Buy are much happier when they can sell an overpriced $30 HDMI cable to more people - and MS and Sony need their retailers to be happy. It's possible that retailers will make more profit by selling a $30 HDMI cable than selling a $300 cons

    • by Artifex (18308)

      Stripping HDMI cables out of the package has nothing to do with the console maker's desire to push HD vs SD. MS and Sony dropped the price of their consoles by $50-100, and to help do that, trimming down on the included cables helps.

      More importantly, retailers like Best Buy are much happier when they can sell an overpriced $30 HDMI cable to more people - and MS and Sony need their retailers to be happy. It's possible that retailers will make more profit by selling a $30 HDMI cable than selling a $300 console. It's been this way with printers and USB cables for years.

      Of course, more and more people are learning that cables can be much cheaper online...

      This is precisely why, whenever new consoles are introduced, for the first couple of weeks Gamestop and the others try to force people to buy bundles.

  • The price drop makes the console more competitive. Without an HDMI cable in the pakcage the customer will have to buy an HDMI cable (hopefully from the vendor); these are cheap to make but retail for about £10/$10 IIRC. Console maker and vendor both win.

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