OPINION: HD DVD is dead – but does that mean Blu-ray automatically wins?


gary%20and%20sonic%20200.JPGGary Cutlack writes…

So it looks like HD DVD has died. That doesn’t bother me much as I can’t tell the difference between HD and normal TV from the comfort of my uncomfortable DFS sofa, so I’m yet to bother with any new movie formats.

But my “old” DVD collection is huge – although it only covers a small time period, back when DVD was the hot new thing.

It starts in late 1999 when I blew a ludicrous £500 on a Sony DVD player (that broke after 18 months). I then happily spent most of my disposable income buying special editions of films I quite liked from America for about £20 a pop. I don’t really know why. It just seemed to be what lots of people were doing at the time. I’m not even that into films. I can quote most of The Terminator, but I’m not exactly Mark Kermode or a fan of anything that isn’t set in the near future.

My DVD collection then ends in about mid 2003, when I realised I was wasting vast amounts of money buying films I quite liked to put on a shelf and never watch. I was buying films I knew I liked, because I’d already seen them at the cinema or on TV. So what was the point in “having” a copy of a film I’ve already seen?

In the 60s and 70s people didn’t feel a need to own films and TV shows they liked. Well, that and the fact it wasn’t technically possible to give Universal £14.99 for a copy of one of its films.

It quite was enough for the young me to simply watch Blakes 7 on TV, then remember it for ever. The staggering and apocalyptic final episode is so vividly etched in my memory to this very day I have no need to see it again!

In the 80s, video rentals were enough. You could see a film in your house that was on at the cinema only last year! It certainly beat having to wait five years for the BBC to show it on Christmas Day.

Then something odd happened and everyone became film collectors.

It wasn’t enough to just like The Terminator, you suddenly had to own a copy. A special copy in a metal-effect case. Even though you’ve already seen it 15 times on TV and are, to be honest, a little bit bored of it now, you have to show your allegiance to such classics by ordering them for £17.98 at Amazon.com and putting them on a shelf.

Every time I look at my DVD collection now – well over half of which I haven’t watched – all I can see is £15 from HMV, £14.99 from Play.com, $19.99 from dvdboxoffice.com – so I do the sums and wish I’d never bothered buying any of the bloody things in the first place. I could have a car instead.

I don’t buy CDs any more, either. Who does? There are two cardboard boxes full of my teenage musical tastes in the loft of my dad’s house, but, looking back on that eclectic collection that cost at least £10 each, I’d rather have the money now.

So is the idea of building up a film collection going to fizzle out when DVD eventually dies, just like no one’s that bothered about having physical CD releases now?

Blu-ray sales may be on the rise, but they’re still an infinitesimally small slice of the market compared to DVD sales. I don’t think the death of HD DVD will bring about a world ruled by Blu-ray. Blu-ray might do about as well as Laser Disc, if it’s lucky, as it seems we’re happy with DVDs or downloads at the moment.

And could downloads really take over? Microsoft’s Xbox 360 does a good job of building up a “virtual catalogue” of your favourite games, thanks to the way it lists everything you’ve played for everyone to see.

Is that enough? Would you give up the physical act of buying and having DVDs in exchange for your player generating a little online list of every film you’ve watched, plus, say, the option to download or stream the movie from a vast central server any time you felt like watching it again?

That way, your edgy and eclectic film tastes are still recorded and displayed to your friends, only you’ve got a lot more shelf and cupboard space.

HD DVD may well have dropped out of the race over the weekend, but I’m not sure that means Blu-ray has that much of a brighter future because of it. A disc-based film collection seems old fashioned to me now, in this age of digital downloads and hard drives big enough to cope.

Could Blu-ray’s recent success be little more than a slight upward blip on the inevitable downward spiral of home movie sales?

Gary Cutlack
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One thought on “OPINION: HD DVD is dead – but does that mean Blu-ray automatically wins?

  • In Europe:

    Number of DVDs sold in year two (in a market dominated by VHS) = 2 million.

    Number of Blu-rays sold in year two (in a market dominated by DVDs) = 2.3 million.

    So much for all the claims that Blu-ray isn’t making a dent into the last generation technology. It’s doing better than DVD was at the same point in its life, in spite of a big format war.

    I remember when people used to say that we didn’t need expensive DVDs and who wants to replace their video cassette collections anyway? A large-scale HD movie download business is years away (for a start the infrastructure cannot take it yet and too many people are still on dialup).

    I mean, people have been predicting the death of CDs every year for nearly eight years now. and every year they are talking bollocks. Sales may be down, but it’s still #1. Because people want something in their hand (evidence shows people often buy the CD album version of what singles they’ve downloaded too).

    By the time HDD takes over as #1, BD would have sold tens – if not hundreds – of millions.

    For those who don’t agree, do tell us how you get along spending four hours to download a “HD” (sic)movie which has no better picture quality than DVD and comes with DRM stricter than a Victorian Scottish governess…..

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