The high definition format wars heat up

In a seesaw battle between high definition formats Blu-ray and HD DVD, things are heating up as the stakes get higher.  HD DVD with its first-to-market and less expensive $500 players entered the market and took the early lead while Blu-ray players came out a little later at a staggering cost close to $1000.

In a seesaw battle between high definition formats Blu-ray and HD DVD, things are heating up as the stakes get higher.  HD DVD with its first-to-market and less expensive $500 players entered the market and took the early lead while Blu-ray players came out a little later at a staggering cost close to $1000.  But Sony dumped the PlayStation 3 on the market at a staggering loss of $2 billion dollars and changed the tide of war.

While the PlayStation 3 isn't much of a success by console standards, it dwarfs the set-top box market.  Despite the fact that the number of HD DVD set-top players sales dwarf Blu-ray set-top players, the PlayStation 3 and its integrated Blu-ray drive dwarfs both of the set-top boxes combined and pushed Blu-ray sales past HD DVD by a factor of 2-to-1.  With Blockbuster dropping HD DVD from its brick and mortar stores (Blockbuster still offers HD DVD online) and premature stories on Target dropping HD DVD (which turned out not to be true since Target was just doing an endcap with Blu-ray), Blu-ray seemed to be unstoppable.

But just when we thought it was over, Paramount and DreamWorks this week declared their exclusive support for HD DVD.  The Blu-ray camp is crying foul that the HD DVD forum is providing $150 million dollars in incentives to get this exclusive deal but that's really peanuts compared to the PlayStation 3 being dumped on the market at a $2B loss.  Transformers director Michael Bay even threw a tantrum in a late-night forum posting threatening not to make a second Transformers movie if he can't get Transformers on both HD DVD and Blu-ray formats.  But Bay apologized the next day in another forum post that he "drank the kool aid hook line and sinker" from three Blu-ray owners and that he over reacted.  Bay now seems to have a change of heart after he heard HD DVD players will soon come close to the magical $200 mark ($299 is the current lowest price).

With Paramount and DreamWorks on board with HD DVD, it will undoubtedly prolong the HD format wars.  The fight is now as much a PlayStation 3 versus HD DVD set-top box war as it is a Blu-ray versus HD DVD war.  With HD DVD players dropping in price and PlayStation 3 not going away and boosting Blu-ray, we may end up with a situation where both formats will survive and that will undoubtedly hurt both HD camps and consumers alike.  We'll end up with a situation where some movie studios only release HD DVD movies while others only release Blu-ray and we'll have to buy two playback devices or a more expensive combo player.  This whole thing reminds me of the DVD-R and DVD+R recordable DVD fiasco and every time I burn someone a video I have to ask them which DVD player they use since not all of them support both formats.