According to Sony, their blu-ray DVD players are winning the format war against Toshiba’s HD-DVD format. They assert these claims with sales data that shows blu-ray films outselling their HD-DVD counterparts on a 3 to 1 ratio and with the growing installed Playstation 3 user base.
Some of this data can be unscientifically backed up with amazon.com sales data from http://www.eproductwars.com/dvd/ which shows that HD-DVD initially had the lead on blu-ray prior to the launch of the Playstation 3. However, the blu-ray sales started to pick up after PS3 sales began to stabilise and it increased even more with the release of “Casino Royale” on blu-ray. So far, Universal studios has an exclusive commitment to HD-DVD with Paramount and Warner Bros showing more bias towards the HD-DVD camp despite being nonexclusive studios.
Although many porn studios have selected HD-DVD as their format of choice, this does not mean Toshiba has won the format war. In the past, pornographic studios may have decided the original videotape wars, but the bulk of pornography is now downloaded through high-speed internet services according to analysts. They also added the one reason why Sony was reluctant to allow pornographers, who initially wanted to make porn for blu-ray, to press their films was Sony’s fear of offending Disney (an exclusive studio) which was a corporation reluctant to be associated with anything that would tarnish their image. Despite this setback, a few pornographic studios in Japan and America have managed to get a few films pressed for blu-ray under the condition of Nondisclosure Agreements.
Others would point out that Microsoft supports HD-DVD, which means it is the end of blu-ray. Again, this is not exactly true, as the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox360 does not appear to be a strong seller with many developers reluctant to port their games to a higher capacity HD-DVD as many developers did for PS2 DVD-ROMs. It is also interesting that Microsoft’s own Public Relations and developers have gone on record saying they would add a blu-ray external drive if they win the format war, and made gaffes that ironically referred to HD-DVD as the “new betamax”.
Despite these apparent setbacks for the HD-DVD camp, Sony could lose this format war because of their Playstation 3. We all know for a fact that the Playstation 3, a system for “hardcore” gamers, is being crushed by the Nintendo Wii and unable to differentiate itself from the 360. It’s sad to say that the Playstation 3 is now the current loser in this generation’s console war and it is being beaten by a slightly modified GameCube console with a motion-sensing and rumble remote despite having such powerful features such as Cell processor that can cure cancer, wi-fi, and HD resolution.
It’s one thing to lose to a relatively inferior piece of hardware but it is a huge problem when Sony could not help their developers harness the full potential of the PS3 to even surpass the Microsoft Xbox360 in terms of graphics and gameplay:
Although the video quality is low, its really very hard to see any major difference between the PS3 and 360 versions. Although some PS3 fanboys would make the claim that their version had more colours, the differences are really not noticeable. This makes consumers wonder why in the world they should pay an extra $100USD for a PS3 version that plays exactly like their 360 counterpart. It is also a large problem for Sony since many of the traditionally loyal developers are willing to cancel their exclusive agreements in favour of generating more revenues by going multi-platform. Phil Harrison of SCEI has acknowledged that the developers move to go multi-platform made sense because they cannot really make much revenue by simply making games for one system, which implies that Sony has not only failed in meeting their developers’ needs but they have a system that will not sell well either.
Then one has to look at it from a developer’s point of view. Why would a developer even try to develop games for PS3 using PS3 development kits that is extremely difficult to program and without any support from Sony unlike Microsoft? The difficulty in programming the PS3 often forces developers to simply port over an existing program/game from the Xbox360 as a way of creating shortcuts to get around the programming issues around the PS3. This also explains why PS3 exclusive games have done very little to differentiate themselves compared to their counterparts on the 360. The fact that there are extra costs pressing games on blu-ray compared to DVD also hurts the developers’ bottom line and these costs are carried over to consumers in the form of PS3’s $60USD games versus the 360’s $50 games.
Another place to see problems in Sony’s troubled Playstation 3 is in their approach to advertising the product. In Japan, Sony has started positioning their PS3 as an entertainment hub in addition to being a gaming system:
This commercial emphasises the non-gaming features of the PS3, which were originally included as value-added benefits for owning a PS3 gaming system. It also doesn’t help that these ads seem to be targeted towards older consumers and non-gamers, which could alienate the Playstation’s core fanbase by associating it as a digital hub instead of its primary design as a console. Moreover, the most interesting part about these ads is Sony’s attempt to attract non-gamers to buy the PS3 similar to how Nintendo is using their unique gameplay on the Wii to attract non-gamers, except Sony has little to show by promoting their extra features as their primary benefits for having a PS3. It’s also interesting how Sony didn’t make any ads that talked about the benefits of using the Playstation 3 to view blu-ray films and it’s ability to surf the Internet.
In Europe and other PAL markets, Sony decided to implement a “This is Living” ad campaign to generate buzz for the PS3. Based on last weekend’s data, it appears that their ad campaign for the PAL markets was a miserable failure since the ads did nothing to talk about the benefits of having a PS3 versus a Nintendo Wii or Xbox360, which have been in the market for nearly a year; and all the “This is Living” ads were loaded with foreign symbolism that confused the casual consumer.
These ads did more to confuse and alienate potential buyers and did very little to generate excitement and sales for Sony. You really have to wonder what the Playstation 3 has to do with a girl taking a shit in the toilet or a Japanese man boiling eggs with his brain. At least the North American ads showed the power of the Playstation 3 by having it quickly solve a Rubik’s cube before destroying it to show its raw processing power.
With all this negative attention associated with the PS3, one has to wonder what this will eventually do for the blu-ray format. First, Sony was able to gain a slight foothold in their format war by making blu-ray available on the PS3 at the expense of angering developers with added development costs, and turning off consumers by raising the retail price. Additionally, all the retarded business decisions Sony’s management have made in regards to the PS3 such as officially praising the Wii as a “Wonderful product” to treating all consumers as if they were automatically going to buy the PS3 regardless of price or associated issues only increased the negative perception surrounding it. Blu-ray is currently winning the next generation DVD format war against HD-DVD, but we all have to wonder how much longer will this success last before its association with the PS3 works against Sony and its blu-ray format…