Gamers Play Big in DVD Format Fight

Competing and co-opted technology companies are headed full steam for a fight over the next generation of high-definition DVD discs, but the first true faceoff of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs will be in the latest gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony.

These gaming devices, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3, not only come with competing HD-DVD and Blu-ray capabilities, they are the ideal battleground for the high-definition video and richer viewing experience promised with high definition.

Power of Gaming

Furthermore, both HD-DVD and Blu-ray players on display at last week’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas got less-than-glowing reviews, and there were also reports that retailers are experiencing a great deal of anxiety over the competing formats, which hearken back to the VHS-Beta fight that confused and confounded both consumers and the industry in the 1970s to early 1980s.

Gamers, however, are already playing games, as well as playing movies, on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which will work with an HD-DVD expansion drive, the software giant announced at CES.

The next PlayStation is also coming to market soon, but this device — the first featuring the powerful Cell processor — will play high-definition, high-capacity Blu-ray discs as well as game titles.

Center of Gravity

Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld that neither side is giving any ground in the fight that will soon face consumers who have other high-definition appliances such as televisions, displays and PCs.

Gartenberg indicated the winner of the format fight will need to be the first to market with the best content rapidly coalescing around it, or otherwise creating some sort of center of gravity for the high-definition discs.

Parks Associates senior analyst Michael Cai agreed, telling TechNewsWorld he believes gamers will be influential because video game consoles, unlike high-definition DVD players, are subsidized by game sales. High-definition graphics and quality also happen to be of utmost importance when it comes to the overall gaming experience and consumer motivation.

Pay to Play

While makers of new HD-DVD and Blu-ray DVD players, including companies making devices for both formats, have not announced official pricing, the devices are likely to be sold for at least US$500. With gamers already paying $400 or $300 for Xbox packages, and Sony’s next PlayStation3 expected to stay below $500, the price favors the consoles, according to Cai.

He said the comparable or less expensive console price tags will make the gaming devices very attractive to consumers, particularly when they have uncertainty about the format of a standalone DVD player.

Cai said PC play and online game play, leveraged far more by Microsoft’s Xbox compared to PlayStation, as well as movie studio backing, will determine which format is still standing in the end.

In the meantime, gamers and technology enthusiasts will go ahead and adopt a DVD format largely based on the console they prefer. While DVD format will not be the core differentiator between the consoles, it will definitely have an impact on which format prevails, he said.

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