Watch An Ad, Get A Free Zune HD Game

The games are free downloads but at launch play either a static display or video ad. Some of the ads are reportedly as long as 30 seconds. But the ads don't seem to be related to serving up HD content because the games are not viewed in HD quality. Zune HD AV Dock and an HDTV are necessary to view video at HD resolution. Supported 720p HD video files play on the player, downscaled to fit the screen at 480 x 272 -- far short of HD resolution.

Based on history, it probably won't dissuade anyone from using Zune HD or downloading free movies. Look at Hulu -- some programs are presented commercial-free after the viewer watches a minute (sometimes more) of commercials. Some shows have "limited interruptions" with few ads interspersed during the featured video. It's a strategy used by cable companies such as Comcast for their free on-demand selections.

In fact, it appears that the strategy is similar to that used by the cable companies. Some have complained, for example, about Microsoft's revelation in July that it would bring Silverlight-powered ads to Xbox Live. But Xbox Live already costs $50 per year -- shouldn't that guarantee subscribers no ads? Well, it hasn't done that for cable TV viewers. Despite paying large monthly sums for premium channels, cable subscribers still pay for certain on-demand movies -- and they suffer through advertisements.

At this point, users should take comfort in the fact that pop-up ads won't disrupt a game in progress. Not yet, at least. If it ever does, though, it might be game over for the Zune.

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