After numerous, debilitating blows to HD-DVD and it’s backers, the final blow has come in the form of it’s biggest stakeholder pulling the plug on production of the High Definition format players. After this announcement, Microsoft is the only big player still behind this technology. HD-DVD still have two fairly large studios behind them – Universal and Paramount – but with both companies on a timed exclusivity contract, or with Get Out Of Jail Free cards built in that allow them to jump a sinking ship, it’s only a matter of time.
This leads the way for Blu-ray to plug the gap in consumer-level High Definition format and finally bring some composure to the industry.
A lot of people are worried that lack of format competition will cause prices to jack up and stay up. All though all the â€œBuy one get one freeâ€ deals happening on both sides of the divide recently may add evidence to this theory I don’t believe this will cause inflated prices for the remaining Blu-ray format. On the contrary, I predict that many of the fence-sitters (that is, end-users, studios and hardware developers) will feel much more inclined to pursue a HD strategy going forward now that there appears to be a clear winner. This will cause production to ramp up and as everyone knows cheaper production costs lead to cheaper consumer costs. Anyway, most price competition will come from the studios battling each other – not the group that controls the format as they are only entitled to a minimal licensing fee per-unit.
Don’t worry, Sony & Co. still has a big chance to mess this up – although they are only part of a board the governs direction of the Blu-ray format. Should they continue to pursue heavy DRM, nixing backwards compatibility between Profiles and other anti-consumer practices that is definitely a way to turn end-users off to this still budding format.
A big downside of Blu-ray compared to HD-DVD is the studios absolute, pig-headed insistence that removable media be restricted by region! As a lot of people have found out, region-locking is a big problem over here in New Zealand. With more retailers selling Region 1 & 2 DVD’s (JB Hi-Fi is one culprit) alongside with Region 4 to which NZ belongs – people are getting bitten when they take their new purchases home to find out they can’t watch them without either applying warranty-voiding hacks to their players/computers or buying an entire new machine.
Having seen one or two Hi-def movies in my time of both formats I can’t wait for this technology to become more commonplace. In the meantime, goodbye HD-DVD and a warm welcome to Blu-ray. But unless Sony and the other stakeholders stop pandering to the greedy studios who would happily sell you the same content 3-4 times could they get away with it, consumers will quickly get tired of having restrictions on the content they payed a premium to own.