I do not think it is a reach to say that the majority of people today get their online content through streaming, whether it be gaming, movies, television, or YouTube videos. In the past few years, it has dominated the market and has all but kicked cable TV out of business. When you can access all of your content online whenever you want and not at one specific time on a cable TV network – plus fewer adds, if any at all – why wouldn’t you take advantage of that kind of convenience at your disposal?
FILM AND TELEVISION
I understand the convenience factor, 100%. Plus, streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, offer quite a wide range of content for its viewers to watch. Why pay for physical copies of media and a disc player that will only take up space on a shelf and collect dust when you can watch the same thing right from the TV itself without having to get up?
Quality. The quality of the picture varies drastically when comparing streaming content to physical media. This is mainly due to the compression of streaming content due to limitations by internet providers. Review Geek has a wonderful article that goes into more detail about it (https://www.reviewgeek.com/6416/is-it-better-to-watch-a-4k-movie-on-blu-ray-or-through-streaming/), but, essentially, a movie on a standard Blu-ray disc will be of higher quality than streaming content in 4K. No, I am not exaggerating. To give you a quick bitrate comparison, streaming in HD is 5 mb/s and streaming in 4k is 25 mb/s, while a Blu-ray disc can get to 40-45 mb/s and a 4k Blu-ray disc has over 100 mb/s. Maybe that is something 5G could fix, but I will wait until I see it before I believe it.
As a film purist, it is of utmost importance to me to not only have the option to keep our content in its highest quality possible but to also restore older films to a higher quality – you can also check out my article from earlier this year about which classic film should receive the 4K treatment (https://www.reelanarchy.com/the-next-classic-film-deserving-of-4k-restoration/). It calms my soul knowing that older films are still being restored and released in a higher quality format. Some examples include classics such as E.T., Halloween, Apollo 13, The Dark Knight trilogy, the Harry Potter series, and Field of Dreams, but it cannot stop there.
The other big pet peeve of mine in terms of streaming films and television comes down to choice. That probably sounds counter-intuitive to my argument since they offer a large selection of content, but the point I am trying to make is that any user of Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime knows that its content changes month-after-month. New titles are being added while some are being taken off. Why allow yourself to be at the mercy of streaming services and allow them to dictate what you get to watch? I have a theory about that, but I will unveil it a little later down the page.
When it comes to gaming, the argument changes direction a little bit. The quality does not differ nearly as much as it does for movies. Instead, the reliance on internet connection and lack of choice (a contradicting notion in the ad for the all-digital Xbox One S console) are the biggest downfalls for streaming in the gaming realm.
Most people game online with their friends or people in the community that play the same game. That is just the reality of it. What might be even more prevalent is that people are not just gaming online, but are now recording and live streaming themselves playing a game for people to watch. Earlier this year, Watchmojo compiled a list of the top ten most watched gaming YouTube videos ever, with the highest coming in at 155 million views. With the emergence of Twitch, streaming has become the norm for gaming communities. Now, more than ever, people need a strong internet connection for the streaming aspect of it.
Don’t get me wrong: there is no problem at all with gaming online with friends, but certain games are now being made for this specific purpose. The industry is catering more towards that demographic via the types of games being made and the features within them. I understand that we live in a world of capitalism and companies are in the business of making money and people are more connected than ever before, but I feel as though a silent section of gamers are probably unhappy with the current state of the gaming industry.
One sports gaming title that has fallen victim of this is the Madden NFL series. In the last 10 years, the game has gravitated away from franchise and superstar modes and instead has been relying on online gameplay, such as ultimate team mode. Granted, last year EA Sports made an effort to fix franchise mode and gameplay, but there remains a lot of room for improvement. So far, the upcoming title, Madden 20, appears to be moving in the right direction by bringing back a version of superstar mode and making vast improvements to gameplay mechanics, but it remains to be seen if EA can pull off a major success – something that has not been achieved in the series for years.
In regards to digital vs. physical media, I do take issue with one minor concept. It is abundantly clear that corporate executives want the entire industry to be digital since the majority of games are at a discounted price if bought digitally and have that console’s online gaming subscription (and now an all-digital console for Xbox). For consumers, it makes some sense to go digital since you have to download the game onto the console you are playing before playing it anyway. It also ties back into convenience. You can play the game on any console as long as you log in and keep all of your progress as well as not having to get up to put a disc in. But why are we in an age where that seems like a chore and could be the difference between playing a certain game or not?
Here is the issue: what happens when you have internet issues? For example, I cannot log into my Xbox and play a digital game if my connection is weak. Not everyone has access to quality internet and even when people do have access to it, that does not mean there might not be a few issues here or there. We all know that internet providers, as a whole, are less than perfect. Much like a basketball coach telling their players to not let referees dictate the outcome of a game, why let less-than-stellar internet providers determine if you get to watch something and, potentially, even ruin your day.
I have been working at Best Buy for over a year now and some of the hottest-selling products have been streaming-related, whether that be a Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku. It kind of dawned on me after a while to question why so many people want to go this route to get their content. Could it just be the convenience factor? Certainly. But after thinking back to how most people I have known my whole life, especially those that are older than me, get and watch their content, I think I figured out a more convincing answer.
My theory will not be popular and as much as it pains me to say it, it all boils down to culture. The majority of people do not truly care enough about what they watch and how they watch it – they just want to watch something. If it requires more than little-to-no effort to watch something, it probably isn’t worth their time. Why do most people that still have cable TV, well, still use it? They have the option to have other people decide what will be on-the-air to watch and do not feel the same kind of commitment to it as if they had put in a disc to watch. People likely feel the same way about streaming because the content is already on there for them and there is little-to-no effort to go into it other than picking something. Basically, it is much easier to pull the plug on something if it does not immediately interest the viewer than by actually making an effort to specifically watch something. It also does not help that fandoms are typically looked down upon in our society as well. Why join a fan community that is known in the media for hate, right? That was supposed to be sarcasm, but you probably did not read it that way, did you?
I get it. People have lives and the type of content I am writing about is supposed to be considered entertainment. It should not have to require work to watch something that is supposed to appeal to a viewer and I think people do not view entertainment as a necessity in their life. I think the same goes for the type of content people normally watch as well. Comedies are always popular because people come home from a long day at work and want to watch something that will brighten their day. I have been in the same boat. But I think people are capable of more and judging by the popular content we are all getting from movies, television, and gaming, I think audiences need more exposure to content with more depth to it. I don’t think people realize just how much of an impact entertainment has on us in our lives. One of my favourite quotes is as follows below:
“Powerful art can heal, bring awareness, and create change.” – Zack Snyder
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
Just so we are clear, I do not think I am right or wrong for having this opinion. Things change over time and priorities should come first. Plus, everyone is different and have different priorities in life. Maybe I am the crazy, introverted guy for feeling the way I do, but the older I become, the more I appreciate storytelling that does not just rely on jokes and basic plot structures – otherwise known as “popcorn flicks.” Stories that break conventional genre boundaries and challenge a viewer to wrestle with the story and its meaning, particularly the ones that get better with each watch, are now some of my favourites. Some examples include films by Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket), Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, The Dark Knight), and, love me or hate me for it, Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
There is also the nostalgic aspect to it as well. Much like Jeremy Jahns, the extremely popular YouTube content creator (and formerly of Collider), I am the kind of person that prefers physical copies of media. That can span from books to movies and games as well. Part of the fun for being a fan, at least for me, are posters and the covers on physical media. I am currently building a collection of books and movies and owning cool covers only helps the experience.
The main idea should be pretty evident by this point. Consumers should have a say in having the option to view their content in a certain way. I realize in our capitalist world that might not make the most sense financially, but why should a dollar or two impact those that spend the most money on content? Cinephiles and old-school gamers should not be forced to sacrifice quality for convenience. Maybe that is part of the problem with the way the future of our world is going. I guess we just need to decide as consumers of media what kind of future we want to forge with how we receive and view our content.