Report: Sony, Microsoft discussing 360 Blu-ray drive

The <i>Financial Times</i> reports rivals are talking about adding high-def technology to formerly HD DVD-aligned console; Microsoft denies anything official, Sony says it's open to the possibility.

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Following its brief campaign to support the doomed HD DVD format, Microsoft has now apparently entered into talks with Sony to bring Blu-ray disc technology to the Xbox 360. That once-unthinkable scenario was outlined today in a report in the British economic daily the Financial Times, two months after Xbox group marketing manager Albert Penello reopened the door to the possibility.

"It should be consumer choice; and if that's the way they vote, that's something we'll have to consider," Penello told the Reuters news service during the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in January. Since then, though, decisions by retail giants Wal-Mart and Best Buy as well as online rental house Netflix made up the public's mind for it, causing Toshiba to finally abandon HD DVD production last month.

Citing an unnamed "senior executive," the Financial Times said that Sony and Microsoft are not simply discussing a successor to the Xbox 360's now discontinued, dirt-cheap external HD DVD drive. The newspaper said that there is also the possibility of an internal Blu-ray drive being incorporated into a new, more expensive "premium" 360 model, as it is already in the PlayStation 3. Thusly, Sony would earn royalties from sales of a rival console--a first for the game industry.

For its part, Microsoft quickly denied any move toward Blu-ray had been officially made. "We have made no such announcement," a rep told GameSpot. "Games are what are driving consumers to purchase game consoles, and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available."

For its part, Sony welcomes the possibility of a Blu-ray-equipped Xbox 360. "If Microsoft wants to release Gears of War 3 on a Blu-ray Disc, I think we can make that happen," Sony Computer Entertainment America's vice president of product marketing Scott A. Steinberg told GameSpot prior to today's report.

While Steinberg's comments were merely hypothetical, they were echoed by another SCEA rep today--who declined to confirm nor deny the Times report. "While of course we are excited that the Blu-ray won the format war and knew that our decision to include Blu-ray in PS3 would pay off, the Blu-ray format is an initiative developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association," said the rep, referring to the body governing the BD format. While led by Sony, the BDA is made up of nine companies: Sony, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG, Hitachi, Sharp, Samsung, and Panasonic parent company Matsushita.

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