The one thing that is needed in the HD Disc Wars is for the remaining film studios supporting HD-DVD to switch sides to Blu-ray. And that may have just happened.
Universal Studios, staunch supporters of HD-DVD exclusively, just announced they plan to continue to support HD-DVD for now, but no longer exclusively. And Paramount is no longer locked to HD-DVD either. While not the definitive final blow, this is significant news. It means both studios have recognized they are in the minority, and since studios are all about making money, they have realized their profits lie on the BD side, more so than HD-DVD.
What really swayed the war? We think the Blockbuster announcement of last spring may of done it. While you might still find a few HD-DVDs in a hand full of Blockbuster stores, they aren’t a growing number (probably shrinking, due to Blockbuster’s ‘you don’t have to return it’ policy). If you want to rent an HD Disc, you have to have a Blu-ray player. And if you buy a Blu-ray player, you’ll only buy BD discs. So the chicken/egg problem is solved.
What’s interesting is, contrary to what Universal Studios has been saying, the consumer’s choice of low-cost hardware didn’t drive the war. HD-DVD players are still a couple of hundred less than BD players, but what good is that if you can’t get the movie you want? In fact, it seems this was not a decision driven by the market, as much as by the studios. As consumers, if we had two equal quality choices, we’d always pick the cheaper. But we didn’t have tha choice. It was made for us by the studios, and it wasn’t the less expensive option.
We still advise our clients to wait just a bit longer to buy their Blu-ray player, though. Players we’ve tested all make wonderful pictures and sound, but operationally are disasters. Not just flakey, true disasters. It’s a firmware/software issue we know will be fixed. But if you want to avoid frustration, and wait for the war to end, get one of the Oppo up-converting DVD players, see your current DVDs in near-high def, and wait for manufacturers to polish up their BD players. You’ll soon buy one for $200 that will be great.