HD format wars suck

Most tech blogs and enthusiasts thought Blu-ray had all but won the format war. Blu-ray was selling 2 to 1 over HD-DVD and had more studio support than HD-DVD. Things were looking up for a single HD media format. This was good for consumers and studios alike.

Then Monday happened.

Sequence of events starting Monday afternoon:

  • Paramount and Dreamworks announced (Engadgethd.com) they would be dropping all Blu-ray support in favor of HD-DVD. The reasons cited included cheaper players, cheaper media, and “superior technology”. Everyone was pretty much like “WTF!?!?” since HD-DVD media sales were lagging behind Blu-ray significantly.
  • Later in the day it is reported from LA Weekly (TheDigitalbits.com) Paramount and Dreamworks received $150 million dollars from Microsoft Toshiba to go HD-DVD exclusive. They also received prime Xbox Live placement and cheap or free encoding services.
  • Even later in the day Fox and MGM put out a joint press release (TheDigitalbits.com) announcing they will be publishing a large number of exclusive Blu-ray titles. This was clearly a quick response to Paramount’s move to HD-DVD. This isn’t insignificant since Fox and MGM had not really published much for Blu-ray, nor voiced support for either side.
  • At 2AM Michael Bay, director of Transformers, posts (HighDefDigest.com) a short note on his site saying he’s pissed off about Paramount’s move to HD-DVD and won’t be directing Transformers 2 because of it. Reports on TheDigitalBits.com indicate many other people from actors to directors to executives are also upset over the deal.
  • The original press release last line reads that the exclusivity agreement doesn’t apply to Spielberg films. This, as it turns out, is because he is a big Blu-ray fan.
  • Michael Bay retracts (HighDefDigest.com) his former statement. He is now, after one day, a huge HD-DVD fan, apparently swayed by The 300 on HD-DVD. He claims to have been misled by Blu-ray owners the night before during dinner.
  • TheDigitalbits.com reports that Microsoft now is trying to cut the same deal with Warner to get them to go HD-DVD exclusive.

From what I’ve read this is not the end of it either. Microsoft essentially extended the format war by at least 18 months (the length of the exclusivity) and did nothing to help decide a winner which is what consumers and, you would think, studios would want.

Non-enthusiasts will now be even more confused than before and probably not buy either platform. If this ridiculous format war continues to much longer HD-DVD and Blu-ray will go the way of Laser Disc and everyone will just stick with what they know works: regular old DVD.