Bandai shows Gundam Video on Demand service for PS3
A new way to watch television.
While getting a chance to play The Behemoth's latest game at the Tokyo International Anime Fair today was certainly pleasant, it really wasn't a surprise. For the big surprise of the day, I had to go over to the Bandai Namco group booth, where Bandai Channel and Cellius (presumably the same Cellius that was formed in 2007 as a joint venture by Sony and Bandai Namco Games) were showing off an experimental PlayStation 3 video on demand service that could be the ultimate time killer for anime fans.
[end_p text="Click for more on Bandai Channel's experimental video service" /]
Tentatively titled "Gundam Viewchives" (this is what happens when Japanese developers don't focustest their names on native English speakers), this service does something different from your standard VOD service. Most VOD services operate on the level of the episode, where you download an episode and view it. Gundam Viewchives breaks things down further, to the scene level. You download and view individual scenes.
That probably doesn't sound like a great idea, until you see the interface Bandai Channel has put together. You start your viewing session off in what looks like a massive cloud of data points. These points represent characters, keywords, and individual scenes from the 43 episodes of the original Gundam anime.
Select one of these data points, and you're given a brief text description. In case case of a scene, you can then select to play the scene, which begins playing after just a couple of seconds. In the case of a character, you're given a list of scenes throughout the entire series in which the character appears. For someone like Gundam main character Amuro Ray, this results in a huge list of scenes, ordered by time and episode. A relatively minor character, like Amuro's mother, has just a handful of scenes.
When viewing a scene, the video takes up just a portion of the screen. I wasn't able to verify if it can be zoomed in to fill the screen (although with old anime, that's usually not a good idea). Below the video, you have playback buttons, along with a button to switch to viewing the entire episode.
To the left of the video, the interface displays a comment column. In my haste at the event, I unfortunately failed to verify if this is meant to be a live chat interface, or if the comments are left by previous viewers.
The right side of the video, the interface displays key words and characters associated with a scene. You can select these to learn more or jump to different scene. As an example of the use of this, if you see a character you like, you can, with just a couple of button presses, bring up a list of all scenes that feature that character.
The relational ties between scenes, characters, and keywords appear to make Gundam Viewchives a perfect way to get to know the series better. But Bandai Channel also makes note of the possibilities for interaction with other fans thanks to the chatting features. One of the concepts for the Gundam Viewchives, according to Bandai Channel, is "the feeling of being in a room." The service aims to give users the feeling of enjoying a video while in a room with others.
Gundam Viewchives is currently in the research phase. However, a Bandai Channel representative who walked me through a demo did state that there are plans to make it into an actual product. Specifics about pricing and so-forth have not been finalized.
The representative did hint at something even more ambitious for the interface than what was shown. The software splits the 43 Gundam episodes into over 800 scenes and 400 key words. That's quite a few data points, and sure enough, the main cloud interface was a bit confusing, with everything jammed together and too small to actually see. This appears to be just a placeholder, though. The plan is to have players actually move through this cloud, just like navigating through space. I failed to ask the rep if you'd be able to pilot a Mobile Suit through the cloud.
Gundam Viewchives has elements of YouTube and other internet video services to it, but completely tailored to a powerful console and to a particular series. Outside of Gundam, it seems like it could be a perfect complement for any television show -- or maybe even movies. A lot will rest on how Bandai Channel puts things together and what type of pricing scheme they come up with, but what I saw in the Tokyo International Anime Fair demo was definitely promising.