At Microsoft's big CES keynote address last week, Bill Gates announced that the company will release an add-on peripheral to read HD-DVD discs on the Xbox 360. Considering that console rival Sony is a primary backer of the competing Blu-ray format of high-capacity discs, it came as little surprise that Microsoft would side with Toshiba's HD-DVD standard. The company's support for the HD-DVD camp has been apparently strong, with reports from late last year suggesting the company is offering cash incentives to PC makers that adopt HD-DVD drives into their systems.
However, despite the obvious preference for HD-DVD, it seems Microsoft isn't willing to completely tie its fate to the format just yet. During CES 2006, Microsoft's Xbox corporate VP of worldwide marketing and publishing Peter Moore told Japanese site ITmedia that a Blu-ray Xbox 360 peripheral could appear for the system if the need arises. Moore admitted that Microsoft isn't sure of the next-generation format war's outcome, with the worst-case scenario being a repeat of the Beta vs. VHS war of the '80s.
However, he suggested that whatever the outcome of the HD-DVD/Blu-ray war, the Xbox 360 can adopt the dominant format since its uses an external drive. He also suggested that it's a weak point for PlayStation 3, saying Sony's system is stuck with Blu-ray. Microsoft hasn't announced how the HD-DVD peripheral will connect to the Xbox 360, but it's most likely going to use one of the system's USB ports. While the PS3 may come with Blu-ray out of the box, there's no apparent reason an external HD-DVD drive couldn't be hooked up through that system's USB ports.
Moore once again confirmed that the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 is only for watching movies, and there are currently no plans to use it for games, nor are there plans to release an Xbox 360 with an internal HD-DVD drive.
Switching to the subject of the Xbox 360's launch in Japan, Moore admitted that sales have been slow in the country. He said the biggest factor contributing to the poor sales in Japan has been the lack of games, as only six titles were available at launch. He cited the delay of Dead or Alive 4 as being particularly influential to the less than stellar debut of the console.
When asked if Microsoft considered delaying the console's launch until there were enough games for the Japanese market, Moore said it wasn't an option. He added that a global launch within 2005 had been Microsoft's business goal and a change to that plan wouldn't be considered, especially since Japan is a vital market. Moore once again emphasized that Microsoft is taking the Japanese market seriously, developing multiple titles catering to the Japanese audience such as Blue Dragon, produced by former Square executive Hironobu Sakaguchi. Moore hopes that the titles will boost sales of the Xbox 360 in Japan in the future.