As you may have heard by now, Blu-ray scored a huge win recently – or perhaps a series of large wins, to be more exact – that may just have ended the next-generation format wars between it and HD-DVD.
The question is, though… does it matter to us in the console world? A large part of the debate between Microsoft and Sony was over this format war, with Microsoft on the HD-DVD side and Sony firmly in the Blu-ray camp, while Nintendo sat by and let them duke it out. So this obviously has some kind of impact… but what kind?
The answer depends on the company. Let's break it down along those lines:
Nintendo – Let's start with the neutral party in this. Obviously, this has no impact on Nintendo or the Wii right now, because people aren't thinking of picking up a Wii to play DVDs on. But the impact here will obviously be in the next Nintendo console, which may very likely have a Blu-ray player on board as a result. Part of that will probably depend on how much Blu-ray player technology costs – remember, Nintendo loves using cheaper technology if it's available to cut costs – and if they get the Blu-ray Disc Association's blessing. Nintendo ally Panasonic is a member of the group, as is a company that it often gets compared to in Apple. It wouldn't be surprising if Nintendo jumps into the association by the end of this generation.
Microsoft – Obviously, here's your loser in this. Microsoft is invested in HD-DVD and has built an HD-DVD player for the Xbox 360. On top of that, they're still committing themselves to HD-DVD, dispelling earlier rumors that they might consider making Blu-ray players for the 360. However, their hand may eventually be forced, and in a worst case scenario, they're going to have to eat a huge write-off for those unsold HD-DVD players, plus putting in time and money to develop a Blu-ray player of their own for the 360.
Sony – And here are your big winners. Not only does their chosen format seemingly win out, but the PS3 itself is now the cheapest Blu-ray player on the market, putting itself in a position like the PS2 was when it was the cheapest DVD player on the market. While I don't expect sales to turn out quite as well, the PS3 will be a steal for anyone who wants a Blu-ray player. The big question here is convincing the public that they need Blu-ray instead of DVD – remember that when the PS2 came out, DVD was already a popular and viable format. Blu-ray isn't there yet.
As for the question of whether Sony, a member of the board of the Blu-ray Disc Association, would even let Nintendo and Microsoft use that technology… they'd be idiots not to. There's a ton of money to be made from licensing out Blu-ray technology to those companies for every single game and console they make. There are already rivals in the Blu-ray Disc Association, too. On the board alone, you'll find Dell, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard, three companies in direct competition with each other in the consumer PC market. Plus, there's always the smug sense of satisfaction that Sony executives will get from their rivals coming to them to use a format they had a large hand in developing.
So there you go. In the end, this won't kill anyone, but it'll probably mean that everyone goes Blu-ray next generation. It's a win for Sony, a monetary loss for Microsoft, and Nintendo's still doing its own thing. There will certainly be an impact. Just don't expect this to be like discs replacing cartridges.