Although, to date, I own neither of the latest HD disk formats—heck, I don’t even own an HD TV set yet—I find the whole format war rather interesting. Having lived through the Beta vs. VHS, but not really understanding it, I find it fascinating how two companies complete against each other.
Although I don’t own either, I’ve followed the whole format story for the past couple of years and expect, in the end, there really will be a winner. Why? Because studios are in this to make money and the format doesn’t really matter. To that end, I see HD DVD as a clear leader. They appear to have a decent format, good codex, great business model, and are getting to be very inexpensive. I paid about $250 for my first Sony DVD play. Considering the cost of an HD DVD player is hitting around that now, people will start to purchase these instead of DVD players. I mean, why not? A PS3, the cheapest Blu-ray player, is still $499 and doesn’t even have a remote. I’m sure it will get a firmware upgrade to play BD 1.1, at least it better to stay alive, but does it really matter? I can get an HD DVD drive for my 360 for the new price of $179 and watch it at 720P on my 19″ monitor along with the other downloadable HD content I purchase. When I get around to 1080i/1080p for my TV’s in a few years, I should be golden for movies!
Now, the consumer side of me doesn’t care much for this format war. Blu-ray appears to have the edge right now, but I’m a bit bugged by Sony at the moment. Yeah, I own Sony gear. Heck, I really like Sony’s software (Vegas, Acid, etc.), but I just never cared for the PlayStation and buying one just for High Def movies seems odd. Clearly, I play games on my 360 first and, if I decide to go that route, would by the HD DVD only when I feel it is worth watching movies on it. Well, assuming I don’t download them instead. But what really bothers me is that Sony owns a major Movie studio. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. But it does tend to bias them to pick a format whether it is a good idea or not. For some reason, Sony keeps thinking they have to create a new format for every stinking device they create. They created Beta, MiniDisks, UMD, their own codex, etc. I mean, what gives! I mean, Microsoft does the same thing, but they at least tend to support other formats—even if half heartedly. But, when Sony is selling the hardware, the movies and, on top of it, forcing Blu-ray down consumers throats without really letting them decide, I get a bit annoyed. In many respects it reminds me of the HBO vs. Showtime problem years ago. You could only watch certain movies on one of the other channels, so you were either stuck buying both or hoping you can rent it. Needless to say, I never cared much for that scenario and so I’ve made an alternate choice—I purchase neither! But, in this case, I worry that DVD’s are going to be going the way of cassettes and VHS soon and I’ll be stuck having to pick a format. Dual drives are too pricey and just don’t seem worth the effort. The only thing that might sway me is when the movies get back down around $12-$15 bucks. I hate paying more then $20 for a movie. At that rate, I’ll take the family to a matinée or rent it. Good thing I don’t use Blockbuster.
Well, formats and wars aside. Picked up an interesting pro HD DVD’s site with an article about the Paramount switch. To be fair, you can read a BluRay biased response to the whole thing. Interesting that they accuse Paramount of taking a $150M bribe (later denied), when we know that Sony is spending hands down way more than that to ensure the success of its format. Perhaps, in the end, it won’t matter. I can continue to download movies to my DVR or XBOX and watch them without any device to my hearts content. Interactive content be damned!