Moore: Xbox 360 HD-DVD for movies, not games

Microsoft VP says external next-gen format drive will play video only and says no 360 with an internal HD-DVD drive is planned.

Microsoft has been a driving force behind the new HD-DVD next-generation optical disc format. But the Xbox manufacturer surprised many when it chose to package the Xbox 360 with a normal DVD drive rather than an HD-DVD drive, especially because Sony has announced that the PlayStation 3 will feature Blu-ray, a competing format.

However, HD-DVD was front and center last night during Microsoft's CES 2006 keynote address, as Microsoft corporate vice president Peter Moore also used the occasion to announce that Microsoft will offer an external HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360.

In the past, console manufacturers have fragmented their system install bases by introducing optional optical disc drives after a system's release. Devices like the Sega CD and the TurboGrafx CD-ROM allowed systems to run superior games. But splitting the console base between basic systems and systems with CD support made the CD systems less attractive for content developers that prefer to develop for a single platform with a large installation base. Peter Moore clarified to GameSpot that the new external Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive will be used for video only, not games.

"Right now it's focused purely on movie playback. Think of the drive as something that lets you play high-definition movies on the Xbox 360." The external drive will function as an alternative to purchasing a separate HD-DVD playback device: "If you want to watch HD-DVD movies and if you own an Xbox 360, there will be no reason for you to go out and buy another player."

Microsoft has considered the benefits of HD-DVD for games, but Moore is confident that the current Xbox 360 system and Xbox Live service are fine for next-gen gaming. "HD-DVD from the gameplay point of view is primarily about media storage as is of course Blu-ray," he said. "Our developers are very comfortable with the [Xbox 360's] storage options--I think they're utilizing Xbox Live very creatively, and the hard drive, we have a very strong attach rate for the hard drive."

Microsoft hasn't announced a price point for the HD-DVD drive or possible system bundles, but Moore made it clear that Microsoft will not create a new Xbox 360 with a built-in HD-DVD drive. "If you actually built a HD-DVD new Xbox 360, that fragments [the installation base] even further. So the idea of having an external peripheral is far better to keep the user base consistent rather than build yet another Xbox 360 that has HD-DVD built in--that means millions of people won't have that."

According to Moore, the drive is planned for release "this year," but the console connection format has yet to be determined.

As for the outcome of the HD-DVD and Blu-ray battle, Moore likes what HD-DVD has to offer, but he admits, "I'm old enough to remember Betamax. The consumer in the end will make the decision."

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