The World’s Biggest Tech Fails: The Video Wars


The video game industry isn’t the only industry to have its fair share of failures. Both the film and music industries have had some bumps along the way, and have lost a few dollars.

The major difference is that most of the video game failures had to do with hardware or peripheral hardware. With the film and music industry it was more of a formatting issue. Here’s what went wrong:

Disc Errors and Format Wars

So does anyone here remember Betamax? If you were born in the 70’s you’ll remember this, but for those of us (myself included) who were born in the late 80’s, we only heard whispers about Sony’s Betamax and that its failure to overtake its competitor, JVC’s VHS, in sales.

It really came down to two simple matters: Recording time and picture quality. The Betamax would only allow for 60 minutes of recording time, while the VHS tape would allow a total of 120 minutes, which was then doubled by RCA’s VHS model with 240 minutes.

The 60 minute Betamax was still greatly efficient for television studios (and would remain the preferred format for many more years), but the main battle was for the Home Video market, and that’s where Betamax lost. Consumers wanted to record movies, multiple shows, and most importantly for the North American market, football games (which, when all is said and done reach about four hours, if you weren’t smart enough to stop at each commercial). In the end JVC’s parent company helped RCA produce a VHS with that four hour capability, and this would later be expanded by JVC to a ten hour tape.

Sony refused to create a Betamax version with the capacity that high, stating that it would greatly reduce the picture quality.

But the consumer still wanted the larger recording capability. In their mind, one VHS tape would be more cost effective than two Betamax tapes.

20 years later, Sony would enter into another format war, this time pitting their BluRay technology against Toshiba’s HDDVD. This time they would not make the same mistakes, and they eventually won the new age war.

Some reasons it prevailed this time around were: the alliances it made with film distributors (like Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox), and the fact that they would incorporate a BluRay Disc player into their Playstation 3. Toshiba would soon discontinue all of their HDDVD players and discs and create their own BluRay disc player for the market. This just goes to show one company’s success is another ones failure.

Sony has their failures and successes in the film industry, but they had failures in the music industry as well. When CD piracy became a huge problem during the mid 2000’s, Sony BMG decided to create new software to prevent the ripping/burning of their discs. To stop this from happening, they installed a Rootkit onto their discs, which would allow software to be installed on the users computer that would prevent any copying of the content.

However, the new copy protection format failed. For one, the Rootkit installed was a sort of malware that would allow hackers to piggyback viruses onto the software and then onto the computers. The other problem was that it was unable to be uninstalled, creating a massive problem for the consumer and in turn, for Sony.

They faced several legal problems after this, and would soon drop that specific protection software from their discs. All of this just so users would be unable to copy the music onto their computers, which was bypassed anyway. Clever consumers figured out that simply using a sharpie to draw along the rim of the disc would bypass any software needing to be installed. Talk about a fail, right?

Although Sony has had their failures in the past, they still remain a multi-million dollar corporation, because they learn from their mistakes. Next we will take a look at some miscellaneous failures from aerospace, home computing, to medical equipment.


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