Are Paramount and Universal Holding Out Or Holding Back?
Since Warner dropped its bomb on the format war on January 4th, the clock has been ticking on Universal and Paramount, the remaining HD DVD exclusive studios. When are they going to give up the ghost and go Blu?
Reports flew fast and furious over the next week that Paramount had an "out clause" in its contract with HD DVD, and that Universal's own pact with HD DVD was at a close, not to be renewed again. But what have we actually heard from either studio? Some pretty stock statements that they are still "currently" supporting HD DVD. Read: at this moment, right here and now, etc. , etc. No new title announcements, nothing significant that could possibly constitute a significant vote of confidence for the embattled format let alone a boost.
Toshiba recently announced a "new marketing strategy," which seems eerily similar to the old one but with even deeper discounts. The entry-level HD-A3 is now $149, the 1080p step-up HD-A30 $199 and the top of the line HD-A35 just $299. Is this about fighting back and gaining market share, or is it about dumping remaining inventory? And by not making their obvious plans public, Universal and Paramount considering broader consumer market interests or being good partners to Toshiba?
The perception here and elsewhere is that the war is over, and all that is left is for these two studios to make it official. Even the potential for an unforeseen shift seems all the more unforeseable at this point. Regardless of the deals in place, it appears that there's less incentive than ever for any of the Blu-ray studios to defect. HD DVD is clearly at its weakest, and there is a clarity in the format war we haven't seen since its inception. Even if the players are cheap, does even $150 seem like a good investment to watch high-def movies from just two studios? It's hard to imagine a significant upturn in market share on player hardware turing the tides with the software support being what it is.
I've written as much as anyone about all the things HD DVD did right. It delivered everything it said it would and much more. I'd have had no gripes qualitiatively or otherwise if HD DVD had come out on top and landed the kill shot. It offered the best interactivity, and the most stable platform- first-gen players can all play the latest and greatest features on today's discs. Blu-ray is still fumbling along trying to find the best marketing slang to ease its messy hardware compatibility issues with BD interactivity.
HD DVD also set the bar for HD picture quality high right out of the gate, forcing Blu-ray to clean up its act early on when it released sub-par titles. And it did all of that at prices that we couldn't afford to ignore, which in turn drove down Blu-ray's prices faster than they'd have come down left to their own devices prices. Hd DVD fought the good fight and fought it extraordinarily well for longer than anyone thought possible.
And all of that still wasn't quite enough. The market has spoken, and it's time for Universal and Paramount to make it official and put an end to this chapter so we can move forward and establish HD on a disc as a viable consumer medium. Quick, before Apple or someone else makes inferior downloads stick!