Blu-Ray Edges Ahead in the Battle of the Formats


Published: Febrary 14, 2008

Long ago, before there were iPods, Xboxes and even the Internet, there was a war between two competing media technologies: Betamax and VHS—the latter obviously being the victor in the battle of formats. Once again, consumers find themselves in the midst of another video format war, only now it’s between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. From the way that this war is going, it seems as if HD-DVD will be remembered as the new Betamax.

HD-DVD has been the underdog throughout this battle. The main advantage of HD-DVD has been that it has been cheaper in terms of the movie players. But now, even the price difference is not as great as it once was. Blu-ray players were initially $1,000 but are now available for as little as $400. HD-DVD players were originally $800 but are now as low as $150.

Another problem for HD-DVD is the number of movies available on the format. Paramount and Universal were the two major studios that HD-DVD had exclusive agreements with, but now both of these studios will also be producing content for Blu-ray. Warner Brothers will stop producing content for HD-DVD altogether and switch to working with Blu-ray exclusively. According to engadget.com, “Universal’s agreement to stick with HD-DVD has ended and has not been renewed. Additionally, Paramount has an escape clause in its contract that can be exercised following Warner’s departure from the (now dwindling) HD-DVD ranks.”

Quality is also an issue that is effecting HD-DVD’s success. Blu-ray disks can hold more information than HD-DVDs, which means Blu-ray produces a better picture since more detail is saved for the picture quality.

Video games are another important aspect in this discussion. The Sony Playstation 3 came equipped with a built in Blu-ray player while the Xbox 360 had a $200 external attachment that allowed the console to play HD-DVDs. Despite Microsoft’s efforts to make to the 360 more appealing by lowering the price of the console and including the option of an add-on high definition movie player, the decision ultimately hurt them. According to gamespot.com, “the PlayStation 3 sold 2.56 million units [last year]” and “the Xbox 360 sold 4.62 million units.” This may look like the 360 is winning, but according to gamasutra.com, “sales of [the Xbox 360 add-on] are 269,000 units in the U.S., representing a 3.4 [percent] attach rate.” This means that even though the Xbox is outselling the PlayStation 3, only 3.4 percent of those Xboxes are playing HD-DVDs. This shows that not everyone who wants an Xbox 360 wants to use it as an HD movie player.

Like many consumers, Shane Skowron, FCLC ’10, is holding out before purchasing either video format until there is a definite winner. “I’m not interested in spending money on any sort of digital medium that hasn’t yet become mainstream, especially considering the price of HD-DVDs,” he said.

Until then, chances for HD-DVD’s long-term success seem slim. It has lost its exclusive studios, and its price advantage is nearly non-existent. While early adopters to HD-DVD may feel like they are being cheated, there will be significant price cuts to the system to try to attract more customers—though even that may not be enough.