Amidst the recent barrage of stories
regarding the future plans of HD DVD supporters Toshiba, Universal and
Paramount, some may have overlooked Microsoft – another big power behind the
The Xbox 360 is currently linked to
HD DVD, as the console can attach to an add-on peripheral drive that enables the
playback of HD DVD software. The drive, manufactured by Toshiba, also operates
on a PC.
According to tracking firm NPD, the
Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive accessory has sold a collective 269,000 units in the U.S., making for
a 3.4 percent attach rate with the console. Examining that number against the
total number of HD DVD players sold in North America, the Xbox 360 accessory
accounts for more than one-third of all HD DVD hardware.
Regarding sales of the HD DVD
peripheral, Microsoft said it was the “biggest-selling accessory” ever sold for
the console – likely measured in terms of revenue. The HD DVD drive launched in 2006 for $199, dropped to $179 in July 2007, settling today at $129.
Despite the added functionality
afforded by the HD DVD add-on, Microsoft appears unconcerned about the fate of the
format’s effect on the Xbox 360.
“We do not believe the recent
reports about HD DVD will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or
our position in the marketplace,” Microsoft said in a statement. “As we've long
stated, we believe it is games that sell consoles and Xbox 360 continues to
have the largest next-gen games library with the most exclusives and best
selling games in the industry.”
For now, Microsoft is taking a
wait-and-see attitude regarding its biggest-selling accessory. “We will wait
until we hear from Toshiba before announcing any specific plans around the Xbox
360 HD DVD player,” the statement read. “HD DVD is one of the several ways we
offer a high definition experience to consumers and we will continue to give
consumers the choice to enjoy digital distribution of high definition movies
and TV shows directly to their living room along with playback of the DVD
movies they already own.”
Such comments from Microsoft may
draw attention to earlier conspiracy theories shared by director Michael Bay
and 20th Century Fox’s president Mike Dunn.
Michael Bay, director of action
blockbusters such as Transformers, accused Microsoft of sabotaging both high-definition disc
formats. More specifically, according to Bay, Microsoft chose HD DVD
to intentionally confuse the customer into giving up both optical formats for
digital downloads – which Microsoft sells on its Xbox Live Video Marketplace.
“What you don't understand is
corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes
and make the world move to digital downloads,” wrote Bay. “That is the dirty
secret no one is talking about.”
Another possible alternative for
Microsoft would be to offer a Blu-ray Disc add-on to open the Xbox 360 to the
ability of playing both formats. Smarthouse cited supposed insiders at
Microsoft saying that a Blu-ray Disc peripheral for the Xbox 360 is pending
marketing and sales approvals.
Michael Ephraim, managing director
of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia said in the report that the company
would welcome Microsoft to with open arms to the Blu-ray Disc family. “We would
welcome Microsoft to the Blu-ray stable,” said Michael Ephraim. “In fact it is
quite logical for them as the PS3 has been very successful in driving consumers
to Blu-ray. In fact we believe that it has done more to win the format war than
traditional Blu-ray player.”
“It is premature to speculate about Blu-ray but we do know from market data
that HD movie playback is not a primary purchase driver for consumers buying
video game console. It continues to be games that drive purchase and that has
consistently been a strong point for the Xbox 360 platform.”
The software giant never completely
ruled out the possibility that it might someday support Blu-ray Disc, including
on its Xbox 360 console.
At CES 2008, Microsoft corporate VP
Jeff Bell told the media that the company always had open lines of communication with the Blu-ray Disc
camp: “We've been talking to Blu-ray all along because we have the best piece
of software in the business, called HDi. It is the backbone that powers
interactivity in HD-DVD and we have that available to potentially partner with
Albert Penello, group marketing
manager for Xbox hardware, said that it would consider a Blu-ray Disc option
should its consumer base demand it. “It should be consumer
choice; and if that's the way they vote, that's something we'll have to
consider,” he said.
Microsoft Europe’s Senior Regional
Director, Neil Thompson, expressed similar sentiments in March 2007:
“Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution. The only
debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that
feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice.”
quote: The actual cost difference between blu vs Red media is less than 10cents a disc with blue costing more.
quote: With more blu-ray hardware being made, it costs less to manufacture than HD-DVD. The difference here is that Toshiba sold their players below cost... They were losing about $200 per player.
quote: The Combo discs DVD + HD were a pain like any other double-sided discs. More people hate them than not.
quote: As more players come into production, more people will buy them, the prices will become LOWER and we'll pay less.
quote: The Toshiba players were SOLD UNDER COSTS. They were losing almost $200 a player trying to build their market share.
quote: Thats wishful thinking-no guarrantees on this. I wish/hope for the buyers your assesment is correct.
quote: And companies don't price one thing higher just to make up for losses elsewhere
quote: unless one is a loss-leader used to attract another
quote: Those already sold on high-definition movies will either declare this as a great victory or a tragic loss, though keep in mind that even HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales combined are barely a drop in the bucket compared to regular DVD. Recent statistics from Zip.ca show that high-definition disc rentals account for 0.87 percent of total shipments.
quote: I have a sneaky suspicion that people won't rush out and buy one, but only time will tell eh? :-)