For better or worse, some consumers are purchasing a PlayStation 3 not for its gaming abilities, but rather its Blu-ray Disc movie playback functionality. While Sony’s gaming division may prefer that its customers be gamers, the bottom line is that those interested in just Blu-ray Disc movies will give Sony another notch in the sales and installed base column – a phenomenon not unlike with DVD during the launch of the PlayStation 2.
With high-definition format crown still up for grabs, both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc camps are doing whatever they can to gain the advantage. Microsoft and Toshiba, the two main pillars of HD DVD, are reportedly working on a new entertainment set-top box that will integrate the gaming functions of the Xbox 360 and the movie playback functions of a Toshiba HD DVD player, according to Smarthouse.
The new device is supposedly being developed in response to Sony’s myriad of entertainment features on the PlayStation 3, driving the sales of Blu-ray Disc software.
Oddly enough, a recent study says that most gamers are clueless about the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 high-definition features, bringing into question the argument of consoles driving high-definition media sales.
“An Xbox with a built in HD DVD drive is critical,” a senior Toshiba executive in Singapore told the website. “They and we are working onit. It also has to be more than a gaming machine. Microsoft recognises this.”
As a full-featured entertainment hub, such a product would appeal to a broader market than just those in Microsoft’s current Xbox target audience. In fact, a Toshiba machine with similarly wide capabilities may hit the market. “A version of the device may also be sold under the Toshiba brand name,”added the Toshiba executive.
While current Xbox 360 owners may add HD DVD playback capabilities to their consoles with a $179 add-on drive, overall penetration of high-definition movies into Xbox gamers has been less than stellar. With an estimated 155,000 units HD DVD add-on drives sold in the U.S. through mid-year, Microsoft and Toshiba maybe looking into ways of getting the high-definition gaming crowd into movies.The answer may be in Sony’s strategy.
Sony has once dabbled before in releasing a consumer-centric entertainment machine based on its games console. Released only in Japan, the PSX was a set-top box with PVR and PS2 capabilities built-in. The PSX was reserved for the higher-end home entertainment purposes, but never quite found its market.
Xbox 360 gamers afraid that a new machine would make their current systems obsolete have little to worry about, however, as Microsoft has said on multiple occasions that its Xbox 360 games will never require an HD DVD drive.