Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sony PlayStation 3, Blu-Ray Disc, and Video Games

When Sony introduced the PlayStation 3 to the market it was the most expensive console at the time. It (originally) played PlayStation One, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 games as well as DVD and Blu-Ray Disc movies. It originally came out in 20GB and 60GB models that included compatibility for most PS2 games. Then, in order to lower production costs Sony replace those models with 40GB and 80GB models that omit the Emotion Engine chip that was used for PS2 compatibility. Games made for the PlayStation 3 are still somewhat lacking. As far as I can tell, most PS3 games seem to have graphics that are either on par with the Xbox 360 or worse than those of the Xbox 360. The Metal Gear Solid 4 has been delayed and reportedly Grand Theft Auto IV was delayed because of PS3.

On the other side of the PS3 it was launched as the least expensive Blu-Ray Disc player on the market. To this day it is still one of the least expense BD players due to its price changes. It is also one of the few BD players that is easily updated as most of the first-generation players did not include an ethernet port as opposed to HD-DVD players which all had an ethernet port for easy network access. Many BD players are updatable via ISO disc images downloaded and burned to a CD/DVD and then run on the player.

Sony has been pushing Blu-Ray relentlessly. It did not need to include Blu-Ray in its game console. I am sure its decision to include Blu-Ray was based on its experience with PS1 and PS2. PlayStation 1 helped more people get CD players, and thus more CDs. PlayStation 2 helped put a DVD player in people's homes. I am sure that they assumed that the PlayStation 3 could be used to push the latest disc standard which just so happened to be created and pushed by Sony. It seems that Blu-Ray has been winning the HD disc format war-especially with it's latest boost from Warner Brothers, and it is on track to finally win the HD disc format war.

I do not believe that HD downloads will become commonplace enough to supplant physical media before a clear winner is declared. I wish broadband in the USA was getting better, but they are not--with the notable exception of Verizon's FiOS service. (I have not heard much about AT&T's U-Verse service other than the batteries being replaced.) Broadband speeds are stagnant and Time Warner Cable is testing out metered bandwidth in Beaumont, Texas. Xbox Live Video Marketplace, Apple TV, (legal) BitTorrent, and DivX services are becoming more popular and will continue to do so, but until there is more competition and penetration of broadband internet service these will not replace physical formats.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Feeling Blu Thanks to WB

The news has been flying around that Warner Brothers--the last neutral movie distributor--will start distributing the HD versions of their films in Blu-Ray only. Their contract with HD-DVD will end in May 2008 and after that they will be exclusive to Blu-Ray. This will effectively end the format war as they join Fox, Disney, Lionsgate, and of course Sony Pictures on the Blu-Ray side leaving only Paramount, Dreamworks Animation SKG, and NBC Universal on HD-DVD.
WB Home Entertainment President Kevin Tsujihara said, "A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry." I agree that the format war has kept many from jumping into the HD disc pool. If the studios hadn't taken sides and distributed in both formats they might have both succeeded, but with Sony having a stake in Blu-Ray they created a stalemate by only supporting Blu-Ray and not HD-DVD.
It's over. Now we can just count down to when the remaining HD-DVD supporters will switch to Blu-Ray (probably not until BD Profile 2.0) and someone makes a Blu-Ray add-on for the Xbox 360.