Yesterday we told you about DuroSport’s new retail outlet in Second Life. It was everything we expected a DuroSport store to be — which was exactly the problem. DuroSport has become so predictable that even their failures no longer surprise us. But there is a new development that even we find quite surprising. DuroSport has just announced an exclusive partnership with the most highly respected content franchise in history: Star Trek.
Yes, you read that correctly. Star Trek. Starting today, Star Trek and DuroSport Electronics have partnered to release what they are calling “DeMastered” episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. The episodes are being made available exclusively through DuroSport’s new video download service called — predictably — DuroView.
We didn’t mention this yesterday because, frankly, were expecting the Star Trek people might pull the plug on this deal at the last possible moment. From the second we heard about this deal, we kept telling them that they should opt-out of what will undoubtedly go down as one of the strangest, and probably shortest-lived partnerships between a content provider and an electronics company. They can’t say they’re weren’t warned in advance.
We got involved because, after inking the deal, the Star Trek folks felt a bit nervous about DuroSport’s technology. After googling for some objective opinions, they came across last year’s review of the Prism 6000. At that point they became very nervous, so they set us up with a beta account and asked us for an impartial evaluation of the DuroView download service.
And after spending some time with DuroView, we can tell you that Star Trek had every right to be nervous. What in the world were they thinking? Partnering with DuroSport may very well be the worst thing that’s ever happened to Star Trek: worse than the endless trip around the ship in the first movie; worse than Kirk meeting God; worse, even, than Enterprise.
First, let’s start off with the concept of “DeMastered.” What the frack does that even mean? Well, apparently, it means that the downloads are in the same quality as the original broadcasts. The original Moldovan broadcasts, that is.
Now, despite what DuroSport claims, their home country of Moldova has never actually been on the cutting edge of technology. As a matter of fact, they’re more like the soft chewy center of technology. And in the 1960s, Moldovan broadcast ratios were, well, unique. Standard is 4×3. Modern widescreen is 16×9. But those are obviously just punk resolutions to the DuroSport people, because the resolution they offer is 4×4. A perfect square. The only good thing that you can say about it is that ratio might help shrink Shatner’s paunch.
It gets worse.
For what they are calling “security reasons,” the new videos can only be downloaded via modem. Apparently, this limitation is part of DuroSport’s legendary “unbreakable” copy protection scheme. Unusable is more like it. We had to scramble to find a computer that even had a modem (thanks, Mom!). To be fair, DuroSport offered to send the programs on physical media. We declined the offer since that would mean scrambling around yet again to find a computer with a 5 1/4″ floppy drive that we could feed the 100 diskettes into. Also, the $300 postage fee seemed excessive.
Downloads are available by appointment only. Apparently DuroSport only has a small number of modem-equipped servers dedicated to the DuroView service. Worse yet, appointments can only be made by mail (postal, not email). DuroSport’s modems top out at 28.8kbs, which is a problem considering each appointment block is only an hour long. God help you if you get disconnected during your download.
Or you might just want to get disconnected, because that phone number that you’ll be downloading from: it’s in Eastern Europe. There are no toll-free numbers for you to call. It cost us a small fortune to download. In retrospect it probably would have been cheaper to order the floppies. But then, we can expense the cost. You probably can’t.
After all of that, how is the quality of the actual video? Is it everything that was advertised? Who knows. After retrieving our Prism DuroSport 6000 player from the “where are they now?” file (or, as we like to call, the Salvation Army pile), we quickly determined that we couldn’t play the video on it.
As a matter of fact, it turns out that DuroSport currently doesn’t have a player that you can actually watch the DuroView downloads on. At least, not in our reality.
After scouring the DuroSport website, we’ve determined that the downloads are viewable only on the new Prism DuroSport 6001, but the only version of the 6001 that exists is the the gigantic monstrosity available in their Second Life store. If you want to watch a Star Trek DeMastered video, you can only watch it in Second Life, after you’ve purchased DuroSport’s virtual player, spent a fortune to download an episode, then uploaded the episode to your Second Life account. At least they don’t make you use a modem to login to Second Life.
We’ve complained about the user experience of some online video services in the past, but the problems with those services were nothing compared to DuroView.
We once again followed up with our contact at Star Trek.com, but all we got was an Outlook “out of office” message that consisted of the following: “Yes, we know. They lied to us. They swore up and down that they had video players in what they kept calling The First Life and The Second Life. Leave us alone. We’ll have no further comment on this issue.”
On the Star Trek site, they called this a “Breakthrough.” Breakdown is more like it. A breakdown in communication; a breakdown in technology; a breakdown in thought processes.
DuroView? “DuroPoo” is more like it.