(Alternate header: Can Gamers Really Influence The HD Format Wars In The Long Term?)
First things first, the state of the HD wars just before the CES in January, with a light personal subjectivity:
1)In 2005 and early 2006, the industry support along a near unanimous analyst predictions were geared toward the Blu Ray format. The way was then paved for a clear cut victory.
2)From Spring 2006 to early December, HD DVD surprisingly begun to dominate the North American market over Blu Ray by a margin of at least 3:1; whereas the latter continued its outrageous domination in Japan. China and India respectively stated their intentions to support other hi def formats ( EMD and VMD ). Is it the beginning of a new era of multiple regional formats, vying to replace the planetary DVD? Now including the Internet providers and TV channels offering HD movies not available on discs ( though at a lower bitrate), things are going to be quite messy for the average consumer.
3)Enthusiast gamers had the opportunity to get the PS3 last November. A few days later, Microsoft launched the HD DVD add-on for the X360.
4)Post holiday reports indicate that gamers SEEM to have boosted in a way HD discs sales in Dec-Jan, albeit at a niche level. The ''average joe'' still doesn't care ( and shouldn't right now, things are quite messy). Even though I'm a HD enthusiast, I always recommend to the non -addicts of my entourage to wait a couple of years.
5)The sales increase particularly involves Blu ray titles. If the HD DVD domination in North Am was staggering over Blu in 2006, what about the stunning, meteoric comeback of the latter just within weeks? Considering the previous consoles had a negligible impact on standard DVD sales a few years ago, shall the PS3 adopters follow the same pattern once the dust clear a bit? Even if only 15% of them bought 5+ Blu Ray movies ( like me ), it's still a short term boost to consider. Imagine, Sony believes 80% bought Blu movies( err)......Perhaps a realistic ratio could be around 40-50%.
CES succinct résumé with a stronger but still light personal point of view:
1)Always keep in mind the average consumer isn't interested right now to embark on a physical HD format, and no big show will change that.
2)For the niche enthusiasts then, big hardware news from the HD DVD group, alas few movie announcements.
3)On the contrary, big software news from Blu Ray, namely interesting offers from exclusives Fox-Lionsgate-Buena Vista ( but no real big blockbusters yet ), and few hardware news.
4)Both camps claim victory. Blu ray says NOW, with an exponential growth through March ( meaning ludicrous believe me even if I like Blu Ray and HD DVD equally ). HD DVD stay calm and goals the long term ( though they candidly bet too heavily just upon the natural extension of the name HD DVD for a wider appeal ). They also bet the Chinese manufacturers will release cheap players later in 2007 ( below 299$ ? ) for the North Am market, and that could be a more serious menace for the Blu Ray.
5)In short, both camps follow the same strategy since 2005 and seem to be unaware that the stubbornness of their respective exclusives ( Hollywood studios ) could probably discourage additional consumers to the profit of Wi Fi, Internet providers, channels and so on. The iPhone was at the Show too...
My Take on The PS3 Effect: Will It Last?
Look, I do not deify Bill Gates, but what he said a couple of years ago still stands I guess: '' This will be the last physical format wars''. I couldn't agree more, but read between the lines.......that doesn't mean there will be NO more physical formats whatsoever. Far from it. We will experience HVD, holographic discs, and then the first HoloVision prototypes. Collecting discs will always stay, but chances are at a nichier level in the upcoming years. I could be such a collector; I'm already Blu and HD DVD. For the ''average joe'', again, let's face it: the Internet providers and Wi Fi should do the job.
In my opinion, both HD physical camps in North Am & Europe are kidding themselves if they really believe to dominate the HD realm planetary wise. The standard DVD will probably be remembered as the last physical format being adopted world wide. At best, either Blu ray or HD DVD shall win against the other, at a regional level. Again, if the studios stay loyal to their camps, the founding fathers should also be kept responsible for the actual debacle: Sony and Toshiba. One will win, yet I think will have to supervise regional markets. The alexanderization of the DVD empire.....
Which finally leads us to the PS3 Effect: I guess it will only be a short term boost for Blu Ray movies, as the majority of its users still remain, correct me if I'm wrong, dedicated gamers. But what a boost in Q1/Q2 2007 it should be, unless competitor Universal ( HD DVD ) decides to ( finally ) announce some additional beasts. Perhaps it's too early considering the niche sales. Just like older consoles having DVD playback: are you using them to play movies? The PS3 is an excellent Blu Ray player right now, but has issues if you don't own a recent HDTV. Conversely, In 2-3 years from now, cheaper room players shall play at a better bitrate versatile discs. All the other actual Blu Ray players being pricey, the PS3 could be then remembered as the platform having saved both the format and Sony itself from a serious drawback, simply because without the Blu Ray drive, it could have been the emptiest high end platform ever released......
For more whys, here's my latest review:
Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3) .