Is the format war almost over?
First quarter numbers are in and they don’t look good for Toshiba’s HD-DVD format. Of all the DVDs (high definition DVDs, that is) purchased in the first quarter, approximately 70% of them were Sony’s Blu-Ray format. Sales of Blu-Ray discs picked up in February and currently outsell HD-DVD by a 3 to 1 margin.
There are a number of factors that could have influenced current hi-def DVD market trends. Blu-Ray has several in its favor. As of mid-April, the number of titles available on Blu-Ray (movies only, not television shows) outnumbers HD-DVD by a count of 203 to 176. This is only surprising in that the disparity isn’t greater as Blu-Ray also has much more studio support. HD-DVD has the exclusive rights to films from Universal while Fox, Sony and Disney are exclusive to Blu-Ray. Lionsgate, Paramount and Warner release in both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. The only real advantage HD-DVD has is that they had a two month head start on Blu-Ray.
One thing most people forget is that there are probably also more Blu-Ray players in more homes than HD-DVD players. This isn’t to say that actual player sales differ by a large margin but remember that Sony’s Playstation 3 also counts as a Blu-Ray player. While sales of the $599 console has slumped behind that of the still sold-out Nintendo Wii, it has greatly outsold the HD-DVD attachment for the Xbox 360, which currently does not support HDMI output to maximize HD-DVD’s potential quality on-screen. This may change with the release of the Xbox 360 Elite, which will have HDMI support out of the box.