I, For One, Welcome Our New Insect Blue Overlords

January 18, 2008

Blu-rayAnd you thought I had forgotten all about the Warner Brothers announcement, tisk tisk. Seriously though I’ve received several emails asking why I hadn’t commented on the announcement and it simply boils down to waiting for the other shoe to drop, (read other studios following in kind) but it seems as if Paramount and Universal are holding steady (at least for now) so here it goes. Firstly this was a huge win for the BDA, no two ways about it; this was very likely the decisive factor in the format war.

I’ve said for quite some time now that Warner’s loyalty was worth its weight in gold, I still believe that but in the weeks since the announcement a couple of things have been gnawing at me. Someone else summed it up best at lunch a few days ago with the comment “if they (the hardware manufacturers) were just going to write the studios big checks for their support, why didn’t they just do that two years ago? I laughed but I wasn’t entirely dismissive to the idea either.

If you look back, Blu-ray won (yes I’m working on that assumption for the time being) the way they said they’d win, and HD DVD simply didn’t. The Blu-ray consortium always argued they had more clout, more support and well just more drive to make it happen. That’s not to say Toshiba didn’t put up a good fight, the format-fanatics might not be able to see it but HD DVD with just two exclusive studios (I’m averaging across the last two years) managed to put up some rather impressive numbers considering they were working with 900k or less players compared to Blu-ray’s 3.8 million.

It’s also rumored that internal Warner Brothers data shows that HD DVD had achieved parity with Blu-ray on several high profile titles going into the holiday season, with others (the BBC’s Planet Earth most notably) actually out-selling Blu-ray. Perhaps this was just a matter of let’s kill them off before they get any stronger. Now don’t take that as some big conspiracy theory, there’s nothing really wrong with that, if that’s indeed what happened. A decision really needed to be made and made it was.

Now while I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that one format is important for high-def media in general to advance, I can’t help but chuckle a bit at how this all played out. Years ago, before anyone (including myself) ever heard of HD DVD or Blu-ray, representatives from two (among others) major studios sat in on a meeting in Tokyo drafting the specifications of what the successor to DVD would look like. Those two studios were Disney and Warner Bros. Flash forward to 2008 and both studios have offered their exclusive support to the format that doesn’t mandate one of the features that everyone in attendance had agreed was a “must have”, and only recently mandated the other. I’m talking about mandatory internet connectivity for every device and secondary video decoders respectively.

Listen, it’s more important to have one format to propel this stuff forward than to worry about a few features, but I would like see 2.0 aka BD-Live, super-duper no we really mean it this time, final non-standard profile pushed forward and used aggressively by the studios. It remains to be seen however if the consumer is willing to shell out the extra dough for those 2.0 enabled players if and when they become readily available, well stand-alone players that is. It’s looking fairly certain that the PS3 will get a 2.0 firmware update to call its very own shortly.

In the end this appears to have been as much about poor DVD sales, the possibility of a recession and as odd as it might sound gas prices as it was about overall sales. After all with both Blu-ray and HD DVD’s combined 2007 sales at a rumored .59% of DVD’s numbers, two years after launch (yes folks thats point five nine percent, not 59%), how can anyone really consider either format as anything beyond a niche product, for the foreseeable future at least?

Who knows? Maybe the president of Seagate is right. Maybe neither format really won but know this, whether you’re a Blu-ray fan or HD DVD supporter, its looking fairly certain that the format war won’t extend into 2009, or perhaps not even past the second quarter of 2008, and regardless of what the individual camps would have you believe, that’s good news.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    What does it tell you Sam? It tells me that a few million more software sockets is an obvious advantage.

  • B.Greenway

    What does it tell you Sam? It tells me that a few million more software sockets is an obvious advantage.

  • SamInNorthCakalakey

    How can it be defined as better technology Dave? BD has about 40% more storage capacity and is capable of encoding at much higher bit-rates, how is that considered inferior?

    And on your software sales figures, HD DVD had a 6 month head start on selling their wares and yet they were still losing. What does that tell you?

  • SamInNorthCakalakey

    How can it be defined as better technology Dave? BD has about 40% more storage capacity and is capable of encoding at much higher bit-rates, how is that considered inferior?

    And on your software sales figures, HD DVD had a 6 month head start on selling their wares and yet they were still losing. What does that tell you?

  • Dave

    Deep Space Homer-my favorite all time episode. But on the format war related side: I think its apropos that people are using the Beta vs. VHS analogy to describe the situation-because in that case the better technology lost as well.

  • Dave

    Deep Space Homer-my favorite all time episode. But on the format war related side: I think its apropos that people are using the Beta vs. VHS analogy to describe the situation-because in that case the better technology lost as well.

  • Jason

    I’m still amazed that it happened – especially after we spoke a couple of weeks prior to the announcement. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Paramount & Universal.

  • Jason

    I’m still amazed that it happened – especially after we spoke a couple of weeks prior to the announcement. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Paramount & Universal.