HD-DVD is dead; long live HD-DVD

Yes, being an early adopter is overrated.  A bit over a year ago I went to a CompUSA in Orange, CT and purchased the xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on, which came with Peter Jackson's King Kong.  At that time HD-DVD movies were outselling BluRay by a ratio of two to one.  Within six weeks the tide of sales had turned completely to BluRay's favor, a fact that sat uncomfortably with me.

Generally I've been happy with the player and the few movies I've purchased in the interim (although the audio output of the xbox player is limited to Dolby 5.1... no DTS).  The image quality is fantastic; King Kong is a good demonstration of what the format is capable of.  I've been cautious about buying movies, limiting myself to the occasional bargain (under $20) due to the unclear direction the HD market was going.  So, the tally on movies:

  • King Kong
  • Serenity
  • Apollo 13
  • The Last Samurai
  • Unforgiven
  • The Thing
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Batman Begins
  • GoodFellas
  • 300

As of today, it's official: HD-DVD is dead.  After a number of major defections of content-providers and retailers, Toshiba, the only manufacturer of dedicated stand-alone HD-DVD players, has announced it is throwing in the towel.  I haven't decided yet if I will try to sell any of this gear (player and movies) or tried to find out if it even has any marginal value.  All told this represents an investment of about $360 (King Kong came with the player, 300 was a gift from my sister) before taxes.   It's difficult to find a standalone BluRay player for that much.

The good news is that the war is over... I just happened to throw my lot in with what turned out to be the wrong camp.

I've seen some recent assertions in articles about this business (interviews with those who have a stake) that even BluRay has a limited lifespan... downloadable movies are expected to increasingly compete with permanent disks in the home.  I do see the logic in this... but I hope that this doesn't mean the eventual death of BluRay.  The quality of downloadable HD movies (at least on xbox live) is limited to 720p... nice but not nearly as good as 1080p.  The extras are also missing from downloadable movies (commentary tracks, featurettes, etc.) So long as the image quality and bonus features are absent from downloadable movies, I think there will be a market for the videophile to get movies in a HD format (that now being the defacto BluRay).   Anectodatally DVDs have been a huge business for the movie studios.  I'm hoping BluRay will gain sufficient momentum that it continues to gain traction in the market.

So, what's next?  It's unlikely that I'll buy a PS3... I'm too much of a video game junkie to want to get another game system.  The standalone players are too highly priced; unfortunately now that there is no competition it will probably take longer for the prices to soften.  It's been a rather expensive year for me in car repairs, and I still have some more hang gliding investments to make this year.  But there is a BluRay standalone player in the future for me, it's just a matter of time.

For now, I'll just enjoy replays of these movies that I have, so long as my HD-DVD player keeps functioning.