What does the HD DVD meltdown mean for Xbox 360?

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xbox-360-hd-dvd-player.jpgIt’s been an eventful pre-CES Friday, what with Warner announcing that it’s backing Blu-ray over HD DVD, and the subsequent cancellation of the HD DVD Promotion Group’s CES press conference.

The kneejerk reaction is that this is curtains for HD DVD, not just on pure market share grounds, but also on the crucial aspect of momentum. Think of all those HD waverers who’ve put off making a decision on whether to buy a Blu-ray or HD DVD player until they were sure who’d ‘win’.

But I’m equally interested in the implications for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console, not least because there’ve been strong rumours this week that one of the highlights of Bill Gates’ CES keynote would be the unveiling of an ‘Xbox 360 Ultimate’ with built-in HD DVD drive.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft has come out and scotched that rumour already, saying “We have reiterated multiple times since launching the Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player that we have no plans to integrate an HD-DVD player in to the Xbox 360”. That’s pretty clear.

Even so, Microsoft has so far hitched Xbox 360 to HD DVD by selling an external HD DVD drive for the console. Today’s seemingly decisive shift towards Blu-ray is a big blow for Microsoft then, right? They’ll be stuck with a console wedded to a soon-to-be obsolete format. Or will they?

Leaving aside the question of whether HD DVD is indeed not long for this world (and if so, how long), it’s clear that Microsoft faces less of a problem than Sony would have for PS3 if Blu-ray had gone down the dumper.

Why? For starters, that external drive. I see no reason why Microsoft can’t now do a Warner and switch formats, in its case by launching an external Blu-ray drive for Xbox 360. Maybe they could even get moving on that Xbox 360 Ultimate, except with an internal Blu-ray drive rather than HD DVD.

Sure, it’d be embarrassing to admit they backed the wrong horse in the HD format wars, but it’s a shift Microsoft would surely make if necessary – if not in the 360’s lifetime, then certainly for the next-gen Xbox console.

What’s clear is that Microsoft now faces a choice, since switching to Blu-ray really would be seen as the final nail in HD DVD’s coffin. Does Bill Gates want to be thought of as the format kingmaker?

You’d have to think that he’s sitting down right now with his fellow Microsoft strategists and deciding what to say about the format war in his keynote. After today’s rumpus, he surely can’t avoid the issue. Can he?

The nuclear approach would be an announcement that Xbox 360 is switching to Blu-ray as soon as possible, although an equally risky approach would be to strongly and publicly back HD DVD despite today’s events.

It’s certainly another reason to look forward to Gates’ CES keynote, anyway. Xbox 360 owners will certainly be hanging on every word…

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Warner dumps HD DVD and goes Blu-ray exclusive!

Stuart Dredge

10 comments

  • What are people smoking if Microsoft wants to continue in the video game industry they will a HD DVD or a Blu ray drive for games or else face putting out muiltiple disc and defeat.

  • i am so glad this format war is seemingly ending, i am also kinda glad to see MS get screwed over with a disc format that could easily become obsolete.

  • Sony has said in the past that if MS would allow it they would put it in the 360, also MS has said aswell that if Blu-ray wins they would put it in the 360, mind you they said this at the launch party of the HD-DVD 360 player. I see it happening, MS hates sony but not at the cost of losing money to a proven format. And to the dumby who said why put in a Blu-ray player, why put in a HD-DVD player? Um to make money dumbass.

  • 720? Let’s call it what it is . . . The XBox 3. The only reason MS called it the 360 was to draw attention away from the fact that their 2nd XBox was going to be competing with the 3rd Playstation. I hope the rumors I’ve read that games are already in development for the XBox 3 are untrue, as a 2 year console cycle would have a negative financial impact on all of MS’s “Hardcore Gamer” fanboys. This is what happens when you rush an inferior (many would say defective) product to market. Blu-ray was always the better technology. I think MS just backed HD DVD because it wasn’t a Sony format.

  • I laugh everytime I hear someone mention a 720… What could you put into an 360 that the PS3 doesnt already have… LOL

    I thinking bundling it would be there only chance to try and save the format… But even then you can expect everyone to go out and buy it even if it is a good deal because 70% of movies made will be Blu ray only… So they’ve got some thinking to do fast…

  • Blu-ray is the way to go for the present. If MS bunlded their external HD DVD as free for each Xbox 360 they sell, this war may still pan out. I will buy Xbox 360 with a Bundled HD DVD player for USD 350.

  • I was hoping Blue Ray would win, but even with the news from Warner I can’t help but feel bad for Microsoft and all those HD DVD drives that people bought and now will be looking to either return or unload on someone else.

  • And how easily do you think Sony will allow Microsoft to use the Blu-ray format for the 360 externally or internally. Not easy at all. Maybe they will force the player to have a price of $299 to make the PS3 look like an even better deal.

    I think Bill Gates should own up and admit he backed the wrong format.

  • I agree with Steve. There’s no real reason for Microsoft to go with Blu-ray. All the high definition add-on drive for the Xbox does is play movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill uses his speech to extol the virtues of the Marketplace, and then announce an Xbox with an absolutely massive hard drive.

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