Tag: "format war"

Thoughts on the format war - towards one inferior format

For those that don't listen to Gamercast here are my thoughts on where things need to go with the format war.

Paramount, DreamWorks and Universal should begin supporting Blu-ray in a time frame consistent with Warner, so that by the end of the year there is one clear format.

Microsoft should release either a Blu-ray add-on drive or dual BD-ROM/HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 by the end of the year. I don't have any room under my TV for a standalone player, nor do I want to pay the going rate for Blu-ray players.

Unfortunately this situation is extremely bad for the consumer, nor did we get any say in the matter, this was decided by the film studios. They wanted Blu-ray due to the increased control they get from it, region locking and additional copy protection.

This will really hit European consumers (where the recent Blu-ray 1.1 launch was a huge flop). Especially as we're no longer in the same region as Japan, which will further add on confusion where people will expect the regions to be the same as DVD, which they're not. Now we're bundled with Africa and Australia, no doubt film-fans will miss out on many releases that won't make it to Europe and they'll miss out on all the Japanese releases that almost made up for it with DVD.

It will also hit consumers thanks to the insane price point of Blu-ray, at the CES we were seeing new Blu-ray players being announced at $2000 - they're not going to make much progress with price points as high as that.

There's also the matter of scaling production, as HD DVD can be manufactured on existing DVD lines with only a minor retooling so production can be rapidly scaled up on the 400-500 DVD lines in the world. Blu-ray on the other hand has only 14 lines, only 2 of which can produce the 50GB discs.

What I predict we'll see thanks to all of this...

1) Too many Blu-ray films will be released on 25GB discs as demand outstrips the limited manufacturing capacity in the short term.

2) To counter the demand prices will remain high, hitting the enthusiast market and leaving the mass market with DVD.

3) We'll suffer from lower quality films as studios use the inferior and cheaper MPEG2 to counter the additional cost of manufacturing the discs and licensing fees.

4) Different Blu-ray specifications will lead to widespread confusion about which players support what, and what discs support what, further damaging uptake of the new format.

5) Blu-ray will be unable to as successfully compete with DVD as HD DVD would of been able to, and Blu-ray will never win the war against DVD with a decisive victory, leaving the market with both DVD and Blu-ray for well over a decade.

Essentially Blu-ray is the HD format for the film studios, where HD DVD was the HD format for the masses.

HD DVD is the better format for consumers

People often ask which is the better format HD DVD or Blu-ray? Of course what they should be asking is which format is better for us, because obviously content publishers can and do have differing opinions.

HD DVD has a number of key points why I want it to succeed over Blu-ray:

1) Region free.
2) Less draconian copy protection.
3) Finalised specification.
4) Cost.

There's also the whole sensible and descriptive name, better picture quality and questionable reliability with Blu-ray, and the fact Blu-ray was a format created to divide the industry, but those are all secondary to the above in my opinion.

If Blu-ray wins, what happens?

1) Bob Public buys a film on holiday, brings it home and find it doesn't work.

2) Joe Public buys a film, expects to be able to legally copy it to his hard disk based portable player, only to find it doesn't work being informed he needs to buy the film again in an online store to download it to his player.

3) John Public buys a first, second, heck even third generation Blu-ray player, only to find it won't play any new Blu-ray films any more because the specifications have changed.

4) Bill Public ends up paying hundreds or thousands of pounds more than he or she would otherwise. Re-tooling all those factories and spending twice as much time developing a menu for the film costs us money.

In short, we get screwed, being stuck with an inferior format.

Some film companies of course love this. Disney love the copy protection, Fox loves the region locking and Sony love releasing products whose specifications aren't finalised, so you can buy a new product to do the exact same job a few years down the line. They work in their best interests (or at least what they think are their best interests), which obviously are not the same as ours which is not to be unexpected, that's capitalism for you.

However not everybody looks at the format war rationally and thinks, which format would better serve us?

Some go on their brand loyalties, the Blu-boys are largely made up of PlayStation fanboys, and people who hate Microsoft (ignoring the point that Microsoft technology is in both formats), and then yes there are people who for some strange reason are actually a fanboy of an optical disc format, of how a 12cm piece of plastic is put together.

By fanboy I mean a person who scourers the internet looking for anybody of a descenting opinion and showers them in abuse, or posts comments on however their little pet technology is awesome and everything else is "teh sux".

There's something these people need to remember, they're partly responsible for why Bob Public wasted his hard earned money only to find his film won't play on his player, or why Joe Public can't rip the film to his portable player, why John Public's Blu-ray player doesn't work with new discs and of course why all of them and Bill Public ends up paying far more money to either work around these problems, or pay for the additional costs of Blu-ray.

Thanks Blu-ray fans, do you enjoy helping the film industry screw the public over or don't you even realise you're doing it?

HD DVD winning the search war too

HD DVD is not only accelerating in growth of sales faster than Blu-ray. Using the number of searches for HD DVD or Blu-ray one can also see how the public are taking interest in the new formats.

According to Google's search results, HD DVD (red) enjoys a comfortable lead over Blu-ray (blue).

Google search results for HD DVD and Blu-ray

Only in Tokyo Japan are things really different, with both formats being neck and neck.

In the UK we see the largest margin, three times as many searches for HD DVD as for Blu-ray.

Again, in the search results we also see the exact same trending that we see on places like Amazon, this helps re-enforce the fact that HD DVD is growing faster than Blu-ray and this isn't just an anomaly in Amazon's salesrank.

I'm not surprised HD DVD is moving ahead, it is the better format. It's cheaper overall, the quality of the video is higher - too many Blu-ray films use MPEG2, where most HD DVDs all use the higher quality VC1. It also supports combo releases, where DVD and HD DVD are on the same disc, it has a larger capacity. It doesn't have as much draconian DRM and it is region free. Plus it comes from the DVD Forum, not a splinter group led by Sony not caring how much they screw the consumer over, by way of format war, slower adoption and confusion, as long as they can get a bigger share of the profits than they would through the DVD Forum.

HD DVD won? Blu-ray sales lagging behind massively

HD DVD sales that have been slowly growing faster than Blu-ray in the last 3 or 4 months have in the post-Christmas sales seen a huge acceleration.

At the moment on Amazon this is how the top 25 film (DVD) sales look:

DVD is winning with 15 titles.
HD DVD is second with 9 titles in the top 25.
Blu-ray is last with only a single title in the top 25.

HD DVD is sat on the top four spots, while the highest ranking Blu-ray title is only at number 19.

Expanding to the top 50, and we find another 7 HD DVD titles, and only 3 Blu-ray titles.

HD DVD sales figures make Blu-ray camp look grim

Some people might remember what Sony and their BDA buddies were saying back in January this year, it went something along the lines of the format war being over, and that they had already won.

Well I notice today that Sony CEO now admits things aren't quite as rosy as they were saying, admitting that "It's a difficult fight" and that they're in a "stalemate" in the fight against HD DVD.  He also wishes he could travel back in time, to when they were in talks with Toshiba about uniting the format.  I bet they do, now that they're losing.

After last weekends' Walmart and Bestbuy $99 HD DVD player promotion it is widely reported that 90,000 machines were shifted, these are quite simply huge numbers at such an early stage in the format war to put things in perspective, the HD DVD camp sold as many players in three days as Sony sold in 6 months.  People like Robert McLaws are coming to the same position I reached a few months ago saying that the momentum is with HD DVD.

HD DVD smashes Blu-ray sales figures

HD DVD has clocked up another new record, with Transformers selling 100,000 units on day one and 190,000 units in the first week. Making it the best selling film for the first week on either HD DVD or its competitor.

I hope the BDA studios take note, and stop this stupid format war once and for all. HD DVD is the successor to DVD and all they're doing is forcing people to wait for a clear winner, and making money out of the confusion.

In other news people in the UK can now get 5 free HD DVDs with the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive (around £115), here. I see on Amazon, you can get 5 free films with Toshiba's players too (around £180).

And better still Planet Earth comes out on HD DVD in two weeks time. David Attenborough + a small corner of the universe + HD = much good.

1 3