Number crunching the format war

May 26, 2006

HD-XA1As the format war heats-up statistical data will no doubt help shape the perception of both formats with potential buyers. In the coming months it will be interesting to note the sales of both camp’s hardware & software, as indicators in the eventual outcome for supremacy and acceptance.

HD Beat points to a page that uses Amazon sales data to plot out statistics for Blu-ray and HD-DVD. The DVD Wars tracks: Number of DVDs available today, Number of DVDs available (including pre-sale), Average Sales Rank of Top 10 DVDs, Average DVD Price, and Number of Players and Accessories.

The anonymous author of the page cites his purpose as “driving closure to the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format wars”. Fair enough. My only concern is that in using only one source of data (Amazon), the potential for skew/error rises exponentially. Regardless the page does offer some interesting trend spotting.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Blu-ray isn’t even available yet, so any early conclusions as to HD-DVD’s advantage (with this data) are inherently flawed, at least for a few more months. Even so, I have some observations and points of my own.

Starting from the top of the list with ‘Number of (HDTV) DVDs available today’, obviously HD-DVD has advantage here as there are no Blu-ray players available. So of course Blu-ray disc sales are behind those of HD-DVD.


From there, we go to ‘Number of (HDTV) DVDs available’ (including pre-sale). Again, slight advantage to HD-DVD but it is interesting to note that 19 Blu-ray titles are available for pre-order. However with 2-3 HD-DVD titles being announced every week or so, I have to wonder if that gap won’t widen in HD-DVD’s favor even more, before the eventual launch of Blu-ray.

Moving onto ‘Average Sales Rank of Top 10 DVDs’; again no Blu-ray players are available yet, so until that changes this integer is somewhat irrelevant in my opinion.

From there we hit ‘Average DVD Price’ and indeed Amazon does charge slightly more for HD-DVD than Blu-ray titles. But this is where my “using only one source of data (Amazon), the potential for skew/error rises exponentially” statement comes into play.

HD-DVD titles are actually cheaper if you know where to look. For example at Warner Brothers On-line, every HD-DVD offered sells for $19.95, a few cents cheaper than even the least expensive Blu-ray tiles at Amazon.

Amazons role in cost perception:

Now I’ll grant you that Amazon plays a huge role in the cost “perception” of many consumers but we need to explore Amazon’s pricing practices a little further, to get a clearer picture of what’s really going on.

Amazon employs several different methods of determining the price you see and pay for their products. I don’t want to get into the ethics of this practice, but I do want to explain it as it pertains to Blu-ray and HD-DVD pricing.

One of the factors that affect the pricing on Amazon is “price testing”. This is where Amazon artificially lowers or raises their pricing on select items to gauge customer interest at certain price points.

It stands to reason that there is less interest in a Blu-ray disc that can’t currently be used in United States versus a HD-DVD disc that can. I fully expect a normalization of Blu-ray and HD-DVD disc pricing at Amazon, once Blu-ray players go on sale in June, July, or August or even later depending on the news source.

Lastly, The DVD Wars mentions ‘Number of Players and Accessories’. They give the nod to Blu-ray on this one and once I found out why, I was a bit surprised. The site is counting the seven Blu-ray blank media options as “Accessories”.

Oddly though, neither the HD-XA1 from Toshiba or RCA’s HDV5000 HD-DVD player appears in the sites ‘All HD-DVDs & Players’ section. In my opinion, this is quite an oversight. As of today (05/26/06) I count 3 HD-DVD players and 2 Blu-ray players at Amazon.

Ok wrapping all this up. Statistics are great and I wholeheartedly suggest following these examples and even creating your own channels in which to do so.

However keep in mind that any chart, graph or study that uses one source of data is just that, one source of data. I strongly suggest that if your criteria for buying either format rest on numbers of titles available and or players available, that you research multiple data sources.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray, HD-DVD


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    Looks like it’s already starting to happen, Serenity was just reduced from $20 to $16 on Amazon

  • B.Greenway

    Looks like it’s already starting to happen, Serenity was just reduced from $20 to $16 on Amazon

  • Adam Griffith

    Great article. It seems to me that in terms of the war, since the HD DVD launch, – the HD DVD side has only had really one new news release that could be considered negative (the fact that the Paramount titles were delayed, given no new release date)…whereas BD, for all the great promotion they should be having right now, continues to have at least one or two negative news stories come out each week without fail.

    That article at I4U news that you linked to is an example, there are many others. The weeks following and leading up to E3 have unleashed a chain of announcements/articles that have all been very disappointing and dis-hearting for BD fans. You go to message boards, etc now and you start to see that even the most vocal BD proponents are now subdued, now nervous – if not outright angry/insulting to Sony and all the poor news that has been unveiled for their format.

    The change is extremely surprising to those of us who have followed the war from the start and who always used to passionately argue either for or against BD. Now those arguments are much more calm. Hah, amiable even.

    While I agree that statistics can often mean little or nothing (many enthusiasts in the forums would argue that that even looking at sales numbers may mean nothing and that ultimately the war will be won by the first side that garners enough “positive perception penetration” – in other words the first brand that successfully establishes it’s name as the next cool/lavish thing to own by the general public) – I’d be surprised now if the statistics didn’t keep gaining/rising in the favor of HD DVD. Funny, that I’d easily have predicted the exact opposite for every day leading up to the past 5 weeks.

    Now HD DVD seems to have a momentum that will not slow down. New surprise titles are announced to be coming soon practically every week. I expect soon that the HD-A1 will have a firmware update. Then Batman Begins. Then Kong. Then a price drop. Etc.

    All this and there’s a very serious question as to whether BD’s single-layer, MPEG-2 compressed (in Sony titles) movies will even look as good as the high standard set by HD DVD releases.

    There’s even a serious question as to whether BD will be around AT ALL to counter any of it.

    And BD with it’s $1000 price tag. A tag that’s even seemed to turn many of the craziest/richest early adopters off in favor of the A1.

    If Sony doesn’t have a compelling counter (whether they release or not – I’m talking about in terms of content/price/etc also) to Toshiba’s momentum prior to November – a situation I never would have predicted but one that now seems incredibly plausible…then I’m not sure how they will recover in the eyes of those of us who don’t have money to burn, who would want to choose a side because of it.

    The amount of things Toshiba could release or do to gain ground between now and November is staggering. At the very least it seems that Batman Begins/Kong/firmware update are inevitable. But now they could potentially have things like the LotR trilogy, Friends:S1, Sopranos:S1, etc, etc, etc – as at least a time-exclusive for their format. Things less than these have swayed people in the past.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know about you, but I was extremely impressed with Toshiba and all the releases (many surprises) that ending up coming out during this month of May. Lord knows, if they can keep this volume/momentum up, – then their long-chided under-dog status may prove to be one of the the most ironic labels the media has yet to give.

  • Adam Griffith

    Great article. It seems to me that in terms of the war, since the HD DVD launch, – the HD DVD side has only had really one new news release that could be considered negative (the fact that the Paramount titles were delayed, given no new release date)…whereas BD, for all the great promotion they should be having right now, continues to have at least one or two negative news stories come out each week without fail.

    That article at I4U news that you linked to is an example, there are many others. The weeks following and leading up to E3 have unleashed a chain of announcements/articles that have all been very disappointing and dis-hearting for BD fans. You go to message boards, etc now and you start to see that even the most vocal BD proponents are now subdued, now nervous – if not outright angry/insulting to Sony and all the poor news that has been unveiled for their format.

    The change is extremely surprising to those of us who have followed the war from the start and who always used to passionately argue either for or against BD. Now those arguments are much more calm. Hah, amiable even.

    While I agree that statistics can often mean little or nothing (many enthusiasts in the forums would argue that that even looking at sales numbers may mean nothing and that ultimately the war will be won by the first side that garners enough “positive perception penetration” – in other words the first brand that successfully establishes it’s name as the next cool/lavish thing to own by the general public) – I’d be surprised now if the statistics didn’t keep gaining/rising in the favor of HD DVD. Funny, that I’d easily have predicted the exact opposite for every day leading up to the past 5 weeks.

    Now HD DVD seems to have a momentum that will not slow down. New surprise titles are announced to be coming soon practically every week. I expect soon that the HD-A1 will have a firmware update. Then Batman Begins. Then Kong. Then a price drop. Etc.

    All this and there’s a very serious question as to whether BD’s single-layer, MPEG-2 compressed (in Sony titles) movies will even look as good as the high standard set by HD DVD releases.

    There’s even a serious question as to whether BD will be around AT ALL to counter any of it.

    And BD with it’s $1000 price tag. A tag that’s even seemed to turn many of the craziest/richest early adopters off in favor of the A1.

    If Sony doesn’t have a compelling counter (whether they release or not – I’m talking about in terms of content/price/etc also) to Toshiba’s momentum prior to November – a situation I never would have predicted but one that now seems incredibly plausible…then I’m not sure how they will recover in the eyes of those of us who don’t have money to burn, who would want to choose a side because of it.

    The amount of things Toshiba could release or do to gain ground between now and November is staggering. At the very least it seems that Batman Begins/Kong/firmware update are inevitable. But now they could potentially have things like the LotR trilogy, Friends:S1, Sopranos:S1, etc, etc, etc – as at least a time-exclusive for their format. Things less than these have swayed people in the past.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know about you, but I was extremely impressed with Toshiba and all the releases (many surprises) that ending up coming out during this month of May. Lord knows, if they can keep this volume/momentum up, – then their long-chided under-dog status may prove to be one of the the most ironic labels the media has yet to give.