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Warner and New Line Go Blu, Possible HD DVD Death Looming

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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.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://www.playstation.com Daniel

    Good Sony new all along blu ray would win 2008 the year of the playstation & Blu ray thank god!!!!

  • http://www.playstation.com Daniel

    2008 the year of playstation & Blu ray!!!! thank god hahaha your gone xbox again!!!!!!

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    How did the Xbox lose? Toshiba created the format, not Microsoft. People try to turn this into video game war, and it’s not.

  • Jason

    This has nothing to do with video games other than Sony used thier system to push blu ray into people’s homes. That’s a very smart idea. HD-DVD has so many good things on it’s side it is a shame that this format has to be decided by corporate board rooms. But that’s how it is.

    Oh and Xbox is blowing the doors off the PS3 in sales hands down. But the best best is to buy the Wii!!! :)

  • blu-boy

    WB did made the right choice. I feel sorry for people of have invested their hard earned cash into the redundant technology that is HD-DUD. Suffer in your jocks !

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “WB did made the right choice.”

    I feel sorry for people that don’t double check their comments before posting.

  • Dynamo of Eternia

    Matt, you mention that your Blu-Ray player won’t play a couple of current movies. Is it by chance a Samsung model Blu-Ray player?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Yeppers, a BDP-1200.

  • http://gossett gossett

    microsoft was smart to give you a choice whether to buy a hd dvd player or not now since the tide has shifted they will probably make a blu ray add on and you can have the choice to buy that,and that would be better than buying that huge ps3 that has games that i and many people just don’t like.

  • Dynamo of Eternia

    “Yeppers, a BDP-1200.”

    Well, that’s your problem right there.

    I have the same model. I actually received it for free as an award where I work back around June or July this past summer.

    It was great at first, but Samsung is REALLY slow with the firmware upgrades.

    Being frustrated with the Blu-Ray format because of this, I went ahead and gave HD-DVD a shot (in additon to Blu-Ray) back when the players got pretty cheap in late October/early November. And overall that has been a good experience compatibility wise. I don’t notice a huge difference in the quality between the two formats (though I only have a 37″ 720p set).

    My experience with the HD-DVD player has been mostly positive, and I went ahead and got it figuring that now I have both formats, so no matter which one dies off, I’m set. I admit that I didn’t expect something like this WB news to happen so soon, and as a result I am slightly regretful of buying the player, but it’s not that big of a deal (I was actually working a lot of overtime at the time, so it didn’t come out of my regular pay).

    Getting back to Blu-Ray, after getting Live Free or Die Hard, and finding it wouldn’t play on my Samsung unit without first loading another disc into the machine, ejecting it, and then putting the LFoDH disc in it afterwards, and then getting Pirates 3 and finding it wouldn’t play at all (it would only get to the menu), I got fed up and found a good deal on a PS3 and went for it.

    That has been working great ever since, and it seems to be the most solid player for Blu-Ray on the market now.

    I do agree that they should have had more of a standard to start with, that is one of my main beefs with Blu-Ray. However, from everything I’ve read, it sounds like the biggest problem is with Samsung and not the format in general. From most things I’ve read, Samsung is the worst at getting firmware out, and for some reason, the BD-P1200 seems to have the worst support out of all of the ones they make. So, by luck of the draw, both you and I ended up with pretty much the worst BD player (in terms of these types of issues) out there on the market.

    I do think things will improve, and I’m just glad that we will be getting one format when it’s all said and done. I would have been fine with it if things had went the other way… I really just wanted one format to win regardless of which (though there was a period where I was really frustrated and kind of anti-blu-ray because of these issues, but now that I have PS3, I’m more satisfied with my experience).

    I really wonder if there’s some way to send the Better Business Bureau after Samsung, as they really seem to be the problem here more than anything else.

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