Interesting analysis over at Gizmodo, particularly the charts highlighting market share for the studios. I think it’s premature to declare the format wars over well before any product actually reaches the US market – so many things could go wrong for either camp.
As I’ve written before (here and here, and here), a bigger issue is whether there’s much of a market for prerecorded HD content in the first place. Anamorphic DVDs cross the “good enough” threshold for most people – even on HDTVs. Star Wars on DVD - remastered yesterday, but shot in 1977 – looks spectacular on my 7’ screen, and most consumers watch on considerably smaller televisions. There’s concern about buyer fatigue (speaking of Star Wars, this is the fourth time I’ve bought it already), killing the DVD golden goose by introducing any format confusion, and pricing.
Ah, pricing. Yes, all the players are going to be backwards compatible (who cares about the technology – if a red laser DVD costs $29 at Wal-Mart, you can just it in any kind of player). But if the disc itself isn’t backwards compatible, you need to either have two separate SKUs – retailers hate that – or put two discs in the box – doubling the cost of media.
So will HD releases be more expensive? Will consumers pay extra to get both formats? If consumers won’t pay more for both discs, then studios will have to go the multiple SKU route. In that case, the HD format will be limited to a high end niche, and for titles big enough to get shelf space. That’s enough to get me excited about the format – I’m a sucker for anything that promises a noticeably better picture. It probably has a bit more appeal than the old videophile-only laserdisc (which never got out of low single-digit penetration), too, as DVD has considerably broadened the home theater audience. Even so, it is unlikely to be a mass market product or replace DVD as a format.