In what many are calling a death blow to HD DVD, Warner Bros. announced they will be exclusive to Sony’s Blu-ray format. They were previously the only studio releasing movies on both formats. Also mentioned was New Line’s confirmation that they too would be going Blu.
The next gen DVD battle has been a mess from the beginning, confusing the hell out of everyone who did not closely follow the war. It turned into a video game-like back-and-forth struggle, with lower prices, propaganda, and various PR talking heads touting their format as the best.
I’ll fully admit my admiration for HD DVD over Blu-ray. Its finalized spec has led to far fewer playback problems (my current Blu-ray player will not play two recent releases at all), the online connectivity added additional features not found elsewhere, and lower entry price made it affordable to the masses.
Now, this is still not the end for HD DVD. While the Toshiba camp called off their press conference at CES this weekend due to the announcement, Paramount and Universal still stand behind the format. This is sure to cause only more confusion, and in the end, the best thing for Toshiba to do is toss out the white flag. This is holding back the formats from taking off, and while it’s hard for me to admit, having been a supporter since the beginning, it’s simply the right thing to do for everyone.
Looking at the battle so far, it’s easy to see some of the mistakes made. The lower priced HD DVD players over the holidays were a great idea, but the software never sold in the numbers it should have. Why?
The stupidly priced combo discs which include both the HD DVD and DVD in one package led to people paying more for the HD DVD than the Blu-ray version. People who already owned a DVD version were forced to pay more for something they didn’t need, and no one who owned a DVD player was going to fork over fifteen dollars more for the combo format.
Two things could have turned the tide. First, studios should have lowered the combo disc price (given that the HD format is cheaper to produce) and released ONLY these. Get the discs in peoples' hands, educate them this way, and then when they see the low-priced HD players, they make the switch because they already own the movies. Secondly, Toshiba should have fought harder to convince Microsoft to insert the HD DVD drive standard into new Xbox 360s.
The largest boost for Sony was Blu-ray playback in the PS3. A high end 360 with the HD DVD included (and another SD DVD drive model alongside it) could have had a huge impact. As it stands, the software sales for Blu-ray trumped HD DVD, and this week's numbers have the split at 63% to 36% year to date.
Even with more players in households, people simply aren’t buying the movies. Can you blame users when they head into Best Buy and see some discs hitting the $40 mark? Not everyone knows to go online and look for a bargain. That low cost player doesn’t benefit them with movie prices like this, and when you’ve already spent a ton of money on DVD versions, it’s even harder to spend the money again to upgrade.
The biggest irritation from all of this are those complaining about all of the money they invested into the format and how it was wasted. Shut up. Are all of the movies you purchased suddenly going to go up in flames and the player implode? The movies don’t stop working because the format is dead, and there are nearly 400 movies available. That’s plenty, and there are still more coming. You’re money is safe, and so are your movies.
Unless a miracle happens, let this be the eulogy for a wonderful home movie format. Regardless of your allegiance, there’s no denying the competition has led to benefits for consumers (the countless 'buy one, get one free' sales, for instance), and there’s little doubt these will taper off as time passes. So goodbye HD DVD. I had fun, and I wish it could go on, but it just wasn’t in the cards.