The press has been awash with stories on the current format war between HD DVD and Blu-Ray. These new formats should be taking us into the next decade with style - HD is the new big thing, from TV channels to gaming and even mobile phones, the HD buzzword is selling hardware like hotcakes, but with HD DVD and Blu-Ray the story is somewhat different. Even the early adopters are being more cautious than usual.
Why is this?
Well - throughout the press all we’re seeing are each ‘camp’ taking pot-shots at each other, scoring cheap points (Blu-Ray outsells HD DVD one week and vice versa, the PS3 is selling poorly, Blockbuster drop HD DVD in most of their US stores) while consumers keep their distance waiting for that day that one or the other capitulates. Unfortunately, by the time that happens, disc-based formats will be old news and neither HD DVD or Blu-Ray will have made it big.
The only chance either format has is if they both survive and feed off each other’s publicity. Dual-format players have to be the way forward - no sensible member of the public is going to buy two expensive pieces of hardware to clutter up their already crowded living rooms. Warner are going to trial their Blu-Ray/HD DVD hybrid discs, but these shouldn’t be needed and offer more drawbacks than benefits - they’ll have no disc art and will be far more fragile. The format war should NEVER happened - it’s all well and good having studios pick their preferred format based on technical needs and costs, but the end user shouldn’t have to do the same.
The move to HD is confusing enough with different resolutions and connectivity standards without that off-putting need to decide which films you don’t want to be able to buy. You see, that’s the problem - consumers are going to realise that whichever format they choose, they won’t be able to buy everything they want, so why should they bother if that old DVD format that everyone owns offer them everything they need.
HD as a whole needs to offer consumers more, not less. HD releases of new films should come out either before or day and date with DVD from the start, they should offer more content to justify all of this hot air about storage capacities and there should be wide-spread promotion as a whole.
The studios should choose whether a particular film should be released on Blu-Ray (if it needs more space) or HD DVD (if it doesn’t), and all customers should need to do is pick up the film they want in their local Asda and come home and play it regardless of which hardware they’ve bought.
All of this confusion is forcing HD DVD and Blu-Ray into a niche and unless there’s an urgent rethink in the next few months, by this time next year we’ll be using our broadband connections to download the latest HD films to our PCs directly from the studio servers. It’s going to be a struggle for either format to become anything more than the new ‘Laserdisc’ and it’ll be impossible if this pathetic ‘war’ continues for much longer.