PC Magazine -- June 27, 1995
The Top 100 CD-ROMs
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The CD-ROM Market
Windows 95 and CD-ROM
- The Top-Selling CD-ROMs of 1994, according to the market-research firm PC Data, were:
- Myst (Brøderbund Software)
- Doom II (GT Interactive/id software)
- 5ft. 10 PAK, Volume 1 (Sirius Publishing)
- Star Wars Rebel Assault (LucasArts Entertainment Co.)
- The 7th Guest (Virgin Interactive Entertainment)
- Microsoft Encarta (Microsoft Corp.)
- Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King (Disney Software)
- Print Shop Deluxe CD Ensemble (Brøderbund Software)
- Quicken CD-ROM Deluxe (Intuit)
- Corel Gallery (Corel Corp.)
- Games make up the most popular CD-ROM category, followed by arts and entertainment, software, reference, and education (in that order), according to the market-research firm InfoTech.
- The Classics: A few titles that were not updated recently enough to make it into this roundup are among the best-ever CD-ROMs and are still worth noting. Among the classics are Arthur's Teacher Trouble as well as Just Grandma and Me from Living Books (800-521-6263); The Oxford English Dictionary, from Oxford University Press (800-334-4249); Sim-City CD-ROM, from Interplay Productions (714-553-6655); and Brøderbund Software's Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (800-521-6263).
Count on Microsoft's new operating system to deliver several important changes to the way your multimedia PC works.
- With the new AutoPlay feature, you simply stick your CD in the drive and the CD loads automatically. Developers must add AutoPlay support to CDs for the feature to work.
- Plug and Play will make your PC multimedia upgrades painless. Add an external CD-ROM to your notebook or give your home system a new sound card with none of the hassles you know so well (like figuring out which IRQ address conflict is tripping you up).
- A new audio CD format supported by Windows 95 will change the way your PC does multimedia. The new format (called CD+), which uses stamped multisession technology from Philips and Sony, will work with both your PC and your audio CD player. New titles supporting this format and running under Windows 95 will be able to take advantage of the new OS's 32-bit multimedia subsystem and support such features as AutoPlay. Look for CDs (even traditional audio CDs) that combine music videos and liner notes and perhaps even provide on-line access to exchanges with (or about) musicians.
The new format also helps avoid a common problem found in current CD-ROMs that you might want to run on your audio CD player (Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Interactive is an example). The first track of any CD-ROM contains data that can produce static and consequently blow your audio CD player's speakers. The new format avoids that problem by rendering the disk smart enough to have an audio CD player skip the data file.
- In 1994, the installed base of CD-ROMs grew 137 percent to more than 25 million worldwide, according to the market- research firm InfoTech. In fact, more CD-equipped PCs than multimedia upgrade kits were sold.
- Watch for an upswing in the compact disk-recordable (CD-R) market. CD-R drives are not as prohibitively expensive as they used to be (they're about $1,000 now, down from thousands more a few years ago), and prices are expected to plummet further in the next few months. It won't be long before PC vendors are equipping systems with CD-R drives, and the price of CD-R disks themselves are going down. You'll find a useful mastering package in Corel Corp.'s $249 Corel CD Creator, which lets you store data, music, and mixed-media files. CD Creator includes data and audio editors as well as a status bar showing free disk space.
- Before long, CD-ROMs will become an impulse buy--vendors will price titles at less than $15--and the titles will proliferate in the mass marketplace, with distributors selling into the Kmart channel. ESX Interactive Media, a division of the music CD retailer Essex Entertainment, is spearheading the mass-market effort by shipping 50 CD-ROM titles with retail prices of $9.95 to music stores, bookstores, and budget retail outlets nationwide. ESX will release 50 more titles later this year at retail prices of $14.95 and below.
- Movies on file: Anticipating increased demand for MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 full-length movies, manufacturers are working to solidify specifications for high-density CD-ROM drives and disks. According to InfoTech, two alliances are battling to push different high-density standards into the mainstream. Sony and Philips--licensers of CD-Audio, CD-ROM, and Video CD standards--have developed a high-density specification, and Time Warner, Toshiba, and a host of other vendors have developed a different specification together. You will definitely be seeing full-length movies on CD in the future, but whose technology will become the standard remains to be seen.
The following section was compiled from information provided by Dataquest, a market-research firm.
- A large number of new CD-ROM developers and publishers appeared on the scene during 1993 and 1994. Right now there are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 CD-ROM developers and 200 to 300 CD-ROM publishers. While developers are in charge of content, publishers take care of marketing and arrange for production. In most cases, publishers contract out to a manufacturer for the actual CD-ROM production.
- The current top ten CD-ROM publishers have earned around $50 million to $100 million in total sales.
- The CD-ROM market is in constant flux, and predictions are that there will be a huge drop in the number of developers and publishers in the near future. Industry sources say there will be about 20 to 30 publishers who will ultimately make it. These are the companies who are earning $10 million or more in total sales. The companies who don't make it will go under, be bought by the successful publishers, or find a place in niche markets.
- Experts estimate that most of the top 15 to 20 publishers employ around 20 to 30 people. Microsoft, obviously, is an exception to the rule.
- The average annual revenue for CD-ROM developers is under $100,000. The average annual revenue for CD-ROM publishers is under $1 million.
- Total 1994 factory revenue for the CD-ROM industry, not including retail sales, is $650 million.
- Dataquest estimates that there were 3,000 new titles in 1993 and 8,000 new titles in 1994.
- Experts anticipate the number of CD-ROM titles in 1995 to be from 3,000 to 5,000.
- 62 percent of CD-ROM titles are developed on the Macintosh; 90 percent of all CD-ROM titles, however, are released first or exclusively for Windows.
- The average time it takes to produce a CD-ROM is about six months.
- The average cost of developing a title depends on its content. A title with only audio and graphics will cost $100,000 to $200,000, an animation title will cost $500,000, and a title with video will cost a minimum of $1 million, with some video-intensive titles costing $2 million to $3 million.
- It costs a manufacturer about 50 cents (materials only) to press a CD, according to Dataquest. Other sources indicate the cost is 60 to 70 cents. The cost of packaging a CD-ROM can range anywhere from $1 to $10 for a title with a lot of manuals (an uncommon sight in the multimedia CD-ROM world).
- A manufacturer makes $11 on average per CD-ROM before manufacturing costs.
- Many programs conflict with drivers for networks, EMS, and screen savers, so keep a boot disk around to make a fresh start in case troubles arise.
- Keep records of the type of hardware components you have in your system (for example, graphics cards, sound cards, CD-ROM drives); the amount of memory in your PC and on your graphics card; type, address, and IRQ for sound card, MIDI support, CD-ROM, and mouse; and DOS and Windows versions. Have this information in hand when calling your CD-ROM manufacturer's technical-support line. You can use the DOS 6.x utility MSD (Microsoft Diagnostics) to get most of the system details you'll need.
- Installing a QuickTime for Windows title might cause your system to crash if you already have a different version of QuickTime on your hard disk. The problem is threefold: Not all vendors use the same versions of QuickTime, not all versions of QuickTime are compatible, and some CDs don't see your existing QuickTime files or prompt you to check if overwriting them is okay. If a CD does indeed overwrite your existing version of QuickTime, the CDs that use that version won't work. Version 1.1 isn't backwards-compatible, and until recently Version 2.0's backwards compatibility was limited. An upgrade to 2.0, Version 2.01, resolves those limitations and is available on CompuServe at GO:MACMEDIA. But the reality is that there are still plenty of titles with different versions of QuickTime, and you'll have to be on your toes if you're to keep on top of all the versions on your system. Consider removing all QuickTime files before installing a new title unless you're sure that all your titles (including the new one) use the same version.
- Some CD-ROMs are optimized for double-speed CD-ROM drives or better and won't run well (or at all) on a single-speed drive.
- To run many graphics-oriented DOS games, your graphics card must support VESA mode. VESA drivers place the resolution of a DOS screen in SVGA mode.
- Several CD-ROMs focus on providing you with multimedia and CD-ROM tips. Check out the $29.95 Basics and Beyond: The Complete Interactive Guide to Multimedia Computers from Frank Kasper and Assoc. (612-942-0566) and the $29.95 Professor Multimedia, Version 2.0, from Individual Software (510-734-6767).
- A great reference tool is CD-ROMs in Print 1995 from Mecklermedia (203-226-6967). The $49.95 package provides a comprehensive list (updated twice a year) of CD-ROMs on the market; you can search the list by category, title, and so on.
- Interactive Catalog Corp.'s Multimedia Know-it-All (206-623-0977) is a catalog of multimedia products and includes a browser, pricing information, comparative reviews, and product demos. The list price is $14.95 for an issue or $29.95 for a one-year subscription.
- The best thing to happen to CD-ROMs is Multimedia Cloaking, Version 1.0, from Helix Software Co. (718-392-3100). Using a small conventional memory stub, Multimedia Cloaking lets you run Helix's version of MSCDEX, mouse driver, and cache in 32-bit protect mode so you don't lose allof your conventional memory or upper memory blocks (UMBs). For those not running NT or OS/2, it's really a savior--especially if you also need to load network drivers. The list price is $39.95.
- The Packard Bell Multimedia line, from Packard Bell Electronics (818-865-1555), includes a system with two CD-ROM drives so you can run two CD-ROMs at the same time. The same system includes software that hunts between the two drives. For example, if you install a game in your D: drive and the CD is actually in E:, it still plays. Depending on how a CD application is written, two-disk CD software might be able to use this feature automatically. (price with two CDs: $1,199).
- CD-ROM changers are indispensable for avid CD-ROM users. Check out Pioneer New Media Technologies' Pioneer DRM-604X and Mountain Network Solutions' Mountain CD7 (see "The Newest Spin on CD-ROM Drives," March 28, 1995). The Pioneer is a quad-speed 6-disk changer (list price $995); the Mountain is a double-speed 7-disk changer (list price $599). A double-speed 6-disk changer and quad-speed 18-disk changer are also available from Pioneer.
- Gateway 2000 (800-846-2000, 605-232-2000) has started including CD-ROM changers in some of its systems. The Gateway 2000 P5-120, a 120-MHz Pentium machine, comes with a quad-speed 3-disk CD changer. The PC costs $3,999.
- Multimedia upgrades from hardware vendors are turning home PCs into multimedia workhorses. Diamond Multimedia Systems' SOHO Kit 6000, Educator Kit 3000, and Games Kit 2000, for example, have quad-speed CD-ROM drives, CD-ROM titles, 16-bit stereo sound cards, speakers, installation videos, and manuals for an estimated retail price of $399. Keep your eyes peeled for other good buys.
- Opti-Net and Opti-Net NLM software from Reed Technology and Information Services let your networked Windows and DOS users share CD-ROM drives and multimedia applications. Users share CD-ROM software in the same way they share files on networks, thereby gaining fast, convenient access to CD-ROM–based data, applications, and multimedia. By using Opti-Net, you can avoid equipping each network workstation with its own CD-ROM drive and software. An 8-workstation license is $795; a 100-workstation license is $1,495.
- CD Essentials, a Windows-based utility from Phoenix Technologies (800-452-0120), automates the process of launching CD-ROM programs or media players, guides you through installations, and uses hot keys for ejecting CDs. WinDelete, the company's uninstall utility, is included. The street price is $35.
Some publishers insist on churning out mounds of data and heaping it onto CD-ROMs. Despite their great potential, CDs can be sloppily edited and have poor content. Watch your step.
The Best Apps on CD-ROM
- Chestnut's The CIA Papers is merely stretches of undistinguished text and nonfunctioning video.
- The offensive Images from The Holocaust, from Quanta Press, lack both humanity and perspective. The pictures are shocking, but so is the lack of historical information needed to try to explain how and why the Nazis exterminated six million Jews.
With these products you get the convenience of fast, easy installation (no stacks of floppy disks) and the pleasure of useful extras.
Magazines on CD-ROM
- Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Systems ($895).
- Corel DRAW, Version 5, Corel Corp. ($695).
- Lotus 1-2-3 Release 5 for Windows: Multimedia Edition, Lotus Development Corp. (Estimated retail price, $329).
- Lotus NotesSuite Release 1.1, Lotus Development Corp. ($499 for combined client license of Notes and SmartSuite).
- Lotus SmartSuite, Lotus Development Corp. (Estimated retail price, $499).
- Microsoft Office Professional and Bookshelf, Microsoft Corp. (Estimated retail price, $599).
- Novell PerfectOffice 3.0 for Windows, Novell ($659).
- Quicken Deluxe 4 for Windows CD-ROM, Intuit Inc. (Estimated street price, $59.95).
- TurboTax Multimedia, Intuit Inc. (Estimated street price, $45).
Open Letter to CD-ROM Developers
- Interactive Entertainment, from Interactive Entertainment ($79 per year; 800-562-3624, 802-767-3033).
- Medio Magazine, from Medio Multimedia ($59.95 per year, $9.95 per issue; 800-788-3866).
- NautilusCD, from Metatec Corp. ($6.95per month; 800-637-3472).
- PC Magazine CD, from Ziff-Davis Publishing (single copy, $17.95; a one year subscription that includes four multimedia issues, $49.95; 800-787-9677).
- Don't automatically install Video for Windows or anything like that without asking us first; you might bring us back to an older version. And do ask about overwriting DLLs/VBXs/EXEs. Show us what's there, show us what you want to do, and let us decide.
- Do package your CD-ROMs in jewel boxes or paper equivalent with appropriate labeling on all sides. We already have one of those fancy CD-ROM organizers that stores 200 CD-ROMS, but it needs them in plastic jewel boxes. And don't tell us to add our own jewel boxes, because then we have to label the outside or end up looking at a bunch of clear plastic cases. Also, why not take a tip from the music industry and limit the size of those large CD-ROM boxes (which typically contain one jewel case and a very thin instruction book)? You can condense the manual to the size of liner notes and include it inside the jewel case.
- Do reorganize, consolidate, push, pull, tuck--whatever is necessary to keep nearly everything on the CD, not on our hard disks. We're tired of shuffling disk space.
- Don't insist on working only with 256-color video drivers, not after we've invested in a graphics accelerator that we run in 16-bit mode. Then we have to change video modes and restart Windows just for your CD.
- Do include some way for us to save our place before we exit, so we can start up again later with the same screen and navigational history.
- Don't insist on having the CD-ROM drive in the path to run programs from the CD. Your CD isn't always the one in there, and we hate the "Invalid drive in path" errors that pop up when we reboot.
- Don't forget to include a sound muzzle. We don't have time to explain to our boss why. . . .
- Do support standard functions. For example, for noise control call the sound-board manufacturer's control panel instead of your own.
- Do be consistent when offering hot keys. For example, support Alt-Tab as you would with any Windows application.
- For those who don't bother to do 1 through 9, do include an accurate uninstall feature.
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Copyright © 1995 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company