The PlayStation 3’s New Best FriendShawn Drotar

Posted on June 18th, 2007 in Gaming by Shawn Drotar

While the PS3’s gaming library is still sparse and the system’s sales are lagging badly enough for Sony to start publicly discussing price cuts, it’s raison d’etre - the real horse that Sony bet on with the $599 system - just got a huge push out of the gate.

While video-game money is good, Sony’s cut of the Blu-ray world if it became the high-definition standard could potentially make their gaming revenue pale by comparison, which is why the PS3 was always as much Trojan Horse as gaming platform.

Well, Odysseus and his boys are in.

Today, Blockbuster Video announced that Blu-ray high-definition discs are their weapon of choice in the current format war that Sony, the de facto leader of the Blu-ray group, is fighting with HD DVD.

In 250 of their 1,450 stores, Blockbuster had been renting both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs in order to test the market. While HD DVDs will still be available for rent in those 250 stores and online through Blockbuster’s Netflix-inspired service, only Blu-ray discs will be available for rental at the other 1,200 Blockbuster locations across the country.

The reason for this decision was clearly stated by Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at Blockbuster, who noted that Blu-ray rentals at the 250 “test locations” represented 70 percent of the high-definition total, a number too high for Blockbuster to ignore.

The consumers are sending us a message. I can’t ignore what I’m seeing… When you walk into a store and see all this product available in Blu-ray and there is less available on HD DVD, I think the consumer gets that.” — Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at Blockbuster, to The Associated Press.

As noted on this site before, while visually, there is no difference to speak of between the two formats, Blu-ray’s biggest advantage is the same as the PlayStation 3’s greatest liability - the library.

With movies like Sony Pictures’ “Casino Royale” and “Spider-Man” appearing on Blu-ray exclusively, and the media giant that is Disney getting on board, Blu-ray’s stable of properties continues to grow. The lone holdout is Universal Studios, which releases in HD DVD format exclusively, but this type of decision by the nation’s biggest brick-and-mortar retail chain may cause them to reconsider. The intriguing corollary to this is that Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, quietly joined Microsoft’s board of directors in March, and combined with Microsoft’s support of HD DVD for the Xbox 360, it seems likely that something big is cooking up in Redmond. But that’s for then, and this is now.

This decision couldn’t come at a better time for Sony; a validation of their strategy to launch the Blu-ray platform as the risk of alienating consumers from its almost-impossibly successful PlayStation line - and to a certain extent, that alienation has been undeniably real. Now that HD DVD players have dropped to $299 dollars, $200 cheaper than an entry-model Blu-ray player, the PS3 was beginning to look even more expensive than ever.

But thanks to Sony’s new best friend, the PlayStation 3 looks like the market leader… although, curiously, not in video gaming. And you know what? Sony’s been fine with that all along.

4 Responses to 'The PlayStation 3’s New Best Friend'

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  1. Scott said,

    on June 19th, 2007 at 6:10 am

    It’s big for Blu-ray but at the same time, I just don’t see that many people rushing to the brick and mortar Blockbuster stores to run Blu-ray’s over regular DVD’s. The people shopping at Blockbuster are getting regular DVD’s IMO. The Blockbuster online and Netflix’s of the world is a bigger deal.

    Having both formats in my home, I actually prefer the HD-DVD route due to their titles and sound quality. Other than that, the formats are dead ringers for each other.

  2. David said,

    on June 19th, 2007 at 6:34 am

    I don’t see Blockbuster’s decision anything more than a “for the time being” approach. There’s still a lot of consumer ground for these new formats to cover. Surely, in order to offer consumers the best choice, Blockbuster will have to offer both formats, no?

  3. Erick said,

    on June 19th, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    I don’t see it as being a killer of HD-DVD quite yet. The only reason I have either is because the add on for 360 is damn cheap, so even if it’s gonna die eventually I’ll have my add on for those movies and in 5 years I can move to whatever succeeds Blu-ray (I’m not 100% convinced that HD-DVD/Blu-ray is the “successor to dvd’s” yet either).

  4. Jon Jones said,

    on June 20th, 2007 at 7:12 am

    “The only reason I have either is because the add on for 360 is damn cheap”

    But that total price for the 360+HD-DVD is the same as the price for a PS3 and you get less, much less.

    Blockbuster is slowing going to go away, Netflix will eventually be king of rental and they currently offer both for no extra money. Likewise, the format “war” will be decided at Walmart and I have yet to see a next-gen disc on sale there.

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