Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The war is over…

The battle for the High Def Disc format has been decided: Blu-ray has beaten HD DVD. It had been a muddled and scrappy fight, with studios and hardware manufacturers lining up on either side. For over a year, each had minor victories, but it seemed that the war could go on for ever.

It was surprising how quickly it ended.

Warner announced that they were going Blu-ray exclusively a few days before the January CES show, and it was all down hill from there. Walmart, Best Buy and others quickly followed suit, and Toshiba saw the writing on the wall and pulled the plug in February.

Arguments were made about the pros and cons of each format, but a compelling case could be made for either format. In the end, is appears to be Sony’s PS3 that made the difference. Though it wasn’t the big success it was supposed to be as a game box, every unit included a Blu-ray player. And while sales of the set-top HD DVD and Blu-ray players ran about even – HD DVD often selling slightly better – PS3 sales swung the pendulum in Blu-rays favor.

When titles were released in both formats, the Blu-ray title consistently out-sold the HD DVD version.

Studio’s were bribed to go with one format over the other - it appears both sides did it - and Sony may have paid money to Warner, but it’s likely that Warner's final decision was based on three things:

1. the higher Blu-ray sales
2. the need to have a resolution to the competing formats issue
3. which format could be killed quicker.

I wouldn’t dismiss the last point. Sony owns movie studio’s; they’d have content for Blu-ray for some time to come, and Sony seems happy to support orphaned formats longer than others would. The drives in all those PS3’s further suggested that Blu-ray would be harder to kill.

Okay, yeah, I admit that I had been rooting for Blu-ray from the beginning. But only because Apple had announced that they were supporting that format and I had been expecting them to release iBlu-ray. Two years go by and still nothing from Apple. Towards the end of last year I was hoping that either format would win; just to resolve the issue.

With Blu-ray the winner, it’s still not clear sailing ahead; will Blu-ray sales explode now that the confusion of the two competing formats is gone? Or will sales remain lack-luster both because DVD has saturated the market, and because people are turning to the Internet rather than buying physical items? As much as I love “North By Northwest,” am I really going to buy it again on Blu-ray? (Not unless I get a much larger TV, no.)

The best part of the whole sorry story is this movie (YouTube link) someone put together: