Giving Customers What They Want?

Judging from the responses to our Vote! question from several months ago, a significant number of home-theater fans are not happy with DVD region codes. The film studios are attempting to control their staggered rollouts of movies for the consumer markets around the planet with the codes, which prevent a DVD made in one region of the world from playing on a DVD player from another region.

It came as a shock, then, that such a major consumer-electronics vendor as Sony would introduce a machine unrestricted by region codes—which is exactly what happened when the company's new PlayStation2 game machine was introduced in Japan. In addition to playing games, the new console, which features a DVD player, is also intended to sit at the center of the user's entertainment system.

Once it discovered the error last week, Sony announced a software fix to prevent future machines from playing DVDs not from the region where the machine is sold. Sony says it has so far sold 1 million of the players in Japan, and plans on introducing the PlayStation2 in the US before the end of the year.

Sony's Kenichi Fukunaga explains that "we have found a problem in that PS2 users can watch DVDs sold overseas that are not supposed to be played on machines sold in Japan by changing the region-code setting by manipulating the software programming. This may not be a bad thing from a user's perspective, but as a company we have a responsibility to uphold software copyright agreements. We will take appropriate steps to solve the problem regarding machines which have already been shipped after consulting with the DVD Forum."

Unfortunately for Sony, the bug is the second widely reported flaw of the PlayStation2. Two weeks ago, Sony acknowledged that the game system's detachable memory card can, in rare cases, erase data that run the system and the DVD player, and thus render the console useless.