Blu-ray reigns supreme with video game players, makers

Like the home entertainment market, the video game industry has typically served as a battleground between competing media formats. For example, in the 1990s, the Nintendo 64 and its then industry-standard cartridge format was challenged by newcomer Sony's CD-based Playstation. Ultimately, the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of Sony's chosen format resulted in greater sales.

More recently, Microsoft favored a DVD format for its Xbox 360 system while Sony pushed the state-of-the-art Blu-ray media for its Playstation 3. Although Microsoft saw more favorable sales numbers in the United States, the Playstation 3 closed the gap worldwide before overtaking the competition and becoming the overall leader. A report released by the International Data Corporation found that the global number of shipments of Sony's product totaled 77 million by December 2012, edging out the Xbox 360 by approximately one million units.

To some extent, Sony's decision to use Blu-ray media may have contributed to its system's success. The ability to play Blu-ray movies in addition to games has driven a number of consumers to adopt the Playstation 3. In addition, the format's larger storage capacity allowed developers to fit increasingly complex and advanced games onto a single disc, whereas Microsoft's offerings increasingly spanned multiple discs.

Blu-ray continues its reign into the future
It would appear that Microsoft has conceded the superiority of the Blu-ray format, as it recently announced that the Xbox 360's successor, the Xbox One, would include a slot load Blu-ray drive. TV Predictions speculated that the reason for this inclusion could be that Microsoft's leaders feared that they would alienate a large demographic of potential consumers who supported Blu-ray technology.

According to survey of 8,800 Playstation 3 owners conducted by The NPD Group, video game players expressed a preference for disc-based media such as DVD and Blu-ray over digitally streaming alternatives, Home Media Magazine reported. TV Predictions' analysis concluded that failing to provide these users with Blu-ray operability would be a costly mistake for Microsoft.

"Studies like [The NPD Group's] probably told Microsoft that gamers still like discs and that the new Xbox One would be more successful if it included a Blu-ray drive," the source stated. "If Microsoft did not include a Blu-ray drive, it could have encouraged more prospective console shoppers to get PS3 and PS4 (when the new console is launched)."

With both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3's successors opting for Blu-ray compatibility, it would appear that the video game format battles have subsided. For the foreseeable future, Blu-ray discs will continue to be the media of choice for video game players and designers. 

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SSD drives provide videographers with greater functionality

As broadband and web design resources increase, businesses have to option to give their websites previously unseen features including high-definition video that can effectively draw in more prospective consumers. For instance, Inman News contributor Bernice Ross recently suggested that realtors hire professional videographers to create high-quality videos to help showcase houses on the market. These videos can be used to create virtual tours to guide prospective homeowners through an available unit. 

To capitalize on the growing trend of professional websites utilizing high-definition multimedia, videographers need to have the best resources available to them to provide a quality product. One of the most sought after professional-class cameras on the market today is the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera. According to video protection hardware merchant AValive, the Blackmagic Design product features unparalleled clarity and functionality for the professional videographer.

"Achieving film-like fidelity in your videos is effortless with this camera and the sheer and supreme convenience of wielding the raw footage (to perfection) continues all the way to the post-production stage," the vendor stated. "The Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera is just the right tool for a keen videographer who not only wants to capture spectacular images but also wishes to improve with every shot."

One of the main appeals of Blackmagic camera technology is its potential to capture uncompressed video, providing greater image resolution and clarity. However, to use this advanced feature requires the application of an SSD drive capable of handling intensive video capture tasks. This can be tricky for prospective purchasers as not all products on the market can facilitate this requirement. DIGISTOR's Professional Video Series SSD is specifically designed to meet the full range of needs of the modern professional videographer, including capturing full uncompressed HD video. Users can quickly copy their recorded media and make necessary edits directly from the disk. In addition, because these devices do not run on any moving parts, they provide much better durability than traditional hard drives. With its resilience and processing speed, DIGISTOR's professional video SSD drive may be the perfect companion to a shoot.

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Microsoft mandates SSD drives for its computers

The consumer solid state drive market is still developing, as the average user continues to weigh the performance benefits of the technology against its increased cost over traditional data storage solutions. However, businesses of all sizes have increased their adoption of SSD drives to reduce bottlenecks and provide a solid foundation to launch their mission-critical applications and software. A report conducted by IHS iSuppli earlier this year predicted that SSD shipments would grow to account for 40 percent of the hard disk drive market by 2016, ZDNet reported. 

As businesses continue to value operational performance and speed, IT decision makers will increasingly turn to SSD drives to at least provide one component of their data storage solution. In fact, one major corporation has already fully committed to SSD technology. As reported by Lifehacker Australia, Microsoft officials have decided to mandate the use of SSD drives in most computers operated by its employees. The company reportedly made the switch because traditional hard drive solutions presented longer launch times for critical applications, which caused a great deal of frustration among staff members and contributed to a reduction of their productivity. 

Microsoft Premier Field Engineer Matthew Reynolds discussed the disparate performance witnessed in various data storage devices at the recent TechEd North America 2013 convention. Reynolds and his team found that SSD drives outperformed hard disk drives regardless of their disc spin speed. In contrast, 7200 rpm and 5400 rpm hard drives were more likely to experience boot time delays when attempting to launch a program. 

"As a result, you generally can't get a machine at Microsoft without an SSD, because we believe it affects productivity," Reynolds said.

Balancing performance with cost
A recent report from market analyst firm Gartner agreed that SSD devices provide superior performance compared with other available options, particularly when deployed in service of mission-critical applications.

"The benefits of SSDs are immediately visible to users as a means to improve application performance by reducing electromechanical HDD latencies," the report stated. "In addition, the ROI of SSD performance benefits is immediately apparent and measurable, especially when the applications using the SSDs are high-profile, revenue-generating services. Installing faster components, such as SSDs, into storage systems and servers helps IT departments avoid outlays for time-consuming projects that require specialist application software and infrastructure performance-tuning skills."

However, the report concluded that the high cost of SSD technology would likely prohibit many organizations from relying solely on these devices for their data storage needs. The firm's researchers suggested that businesses pair SSD drives with traditional storage solutions, with prioritized processes and applications being given preference for SSD use. This way, companies can ensure that their critical tasks benefit from SSD performance boosts while minimizing data storage costs.

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Protecting data from storage hardware failure

Consumers and businesses alike have increasingly considered deploying solid state drives to meet their data storage needs. SSD drives offer greater performance than traditional hard disk drive solutions by removing bottlenecks caused by moving parts. However, this increased performance also comes with a higher price tag. The cost of an SSD drive will far exceed that of a traditional hard drive with comparable storage capacity. If individuals or companies opt to pursue this data storage solution, they should take every opportunity to protect their investment.

Hardware failures with SSD technology – although not known to be a common occurrence – can come without warning. With many electronic devices, including traditional HDDs, impending hardware failure is often preceded by a rash of performance disruptions and operational errors that can raise a red flag with users. SSD drives are less likely to produce these errors, meaning owners will want to take proactive steps to keep their devices operational and prevent the possibility of losing valuable data.

Extending the life of an SSD drive
The NAND flash memory that SSD technology operates on has a finite shelf-life. Inevitably, an individual drive will cease operating. According to PCWorld, the latest SSD drive models are rated up to a few thousand data writes, which would still provide several years worth of functionality even under the heaviest use. Under the right conditions, however, these machines can keep running for decades. The news outlet suggested that owners implement a utility known as wear leveling to extend an SSD drive's life span. This technique commands the controller to write data once to each NAND cell on a drive before doing so a second time. By following this method, users can spread the data writing workload across a drive's entire array of cells and prevent burning out an individual unit from overuse.

Employing backup options
Even with proper care and use, SSD drive owners may find that their device has suddenly stopped operating. In light of this possibility, users may want to employ a robust backup system to secure information and files that cannot be easily – if at all – reproduced. Using a Blu-ray burner paired with DIGISTOR's REWIND archiving software, consumers can simply copy their valued data files to writable discs. This technology is a cost-effective alternative to other available options. In addition, the durability provided by Blu-ray media would alleviate concerns that the backup device could face hardware failure. Unlike other solutions, DIGISTOR's REWIND application is not hampered by storage limits. Owners can simply extend their files across multiple discs, allowing them to scale their data backup endeavors as wide or narrow as they please.

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The continuing need for Xbox 360 and PS3 storage

With the recent reveals of the successors to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's Playstation 3 video game consoles, the gaming industry was rife with anticipation to know if these latest incarnations would allow users to play old games. Backwards compatibility has been a feature of many video game systems over the past several years. For instance, owners of the original Playstation could insert those discs into their Playstation 2 machines and play those games as if they were running on the older hardware. This function had allowed millions of video game fans to sell, recycle or discard their outdated technology without sacrificing the ability to play their favorite games.

With the move to disc-based media, backwards compatibility had become a standard in the video game industry. However, Microsoft officials recently revealed that the impending Xbox One console will not be designed with this capability. According to TechRadar, Microsoft claimed that architectural changes in the new system's hardware prevented them from implementing the feature.

Gamers hang on to their current systems
The loss of backwards compatibility is the latest addition to a growing list of reasons why players may decide that they will need to hold on to their current video game consoles. As noted by Joystiq's Jessica Conditt, the advent of digital services that allow gamers to download games from online servers and store them on their system's hard drives has also contributed to this emerging trend.

"It's been eight years since the previous generation transition, meaning players have had longer than ever to build up their libraries," Conditt wrote. "That's a lot to lose – and even more so with the onset of downloadable games in the middle of this generation."

Unless gamers want to lose the ability to play the video game catalogs they have developed in recent years, their Xbox 360s and Playstation 3s will have to remain in rotation. As those machines receive more use down the road, data storage will become an increasing issue for video game aficionados. With more time spent on their consoles, gamers will dedicate more hard drive space to their game and digital downloads. This will prevent them from allocating more space to their other media files, including music, movies and photos. Even after the release of their successors, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will remain top-of-the-line purveyors of high-quality media playback, so this storage space shortage will be of great concern to gamers.

To address these concerns, video game players can employ an external hard drive for PS3 or Xbox. With the additional storage space provided by a DIGISTOR External Drive, gamers will be able to back up their entire PS3, providing a durable data recovery option in the event that their internal hard drive fails. For owners of either console, adding an external storage solution will free up space on their internal drives for additional game, movie and music files well into the next decade.

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Why Blu-ray is here to stay

With the spread of downloadable digital content and streaming video and music services, some people have suggested that physical media, including Blu-ray, would experience lower usage rates and eventually become altogether obsolete. However, several recent trends demonstrate that this is not the case. The two main driving forces behind disc-based media – the film and video game industries – have renewed their commitment to this format.

The two technological torchbearers in the video game industry – Microsoft and Sony – have both announced that their newest console releases will include Blu-ray compatibility. This functionality extends to both the discs that game data will be pressed on as well as the ability to play Blu-ray movies using the consoles. ITProPortal suggested that the two companies should take their support of the format even further by accommodating playback features for future Blu-ray releases. BD-Rom, which supports 50-gigabyte discs, is the current standard for Blu-ray media. However, if the impending video game systems included a BDXL slot load Blu-ray drive, they could play back discs with a storage capacity of 128 gigabytes.

Meanwhile, the home theater market is considering new ventures to satisfy the public's desire to watch movies from their living rooms. The Wall Street Journal reported that IMAX is launching a similar product for the home theater market. The system will leverage the same technology it uses in movie theaters, including curved, wall-to-wall screens, laser-aligned audio speakers and high-resolution projection systems to provide an unmatched home theater experience. The system will even facilitate the viewing of 3-D formats. With a price tag of approximately $2 million, this product will only be feasible for a few people, but it demonstrates the movie industry's continued faith in the home theater market.

With the entertainment industry firmly backing Blu-ray media, its future as the dominant format seems secure. The popularity of digital content and streaming services may continue, but the public desire for physical media will likely not dissipate anytime soon.

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