Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Keeping Track of the High-Definition DVD Format War

Trying to keep track of the high-definition DVD format war is like trying to keep tabs on the invisible man: it's a constantly moving target, and I have no idea where each format is at any given time. Sales of hardware and software, market penetration, movie studio and retailer support, all of which will help determine a "winner", are all consistently shifting. Not to mention that, depending on the source, different numbers are reported everywhere.

Hardware sales in one country are higher for X format; but if you look at numbers from a specific region, Y format is actually doing better. Meanwhile, software sales for one format in a particular store are triple that of the other format; but sales in a much larger retail outlet are double, which equates to much more when you look at the bottom line. It's like high school math problems all over again!

With that said, I thought I'd add some fuel to the fire, and increase the complexity of this math problem. The latest numbers I've received (from the RetailBRIDGE) say that the North American HD DVD Promotional Group is reporting that 750,000+ HD DVD players were sold in the U.S. this past Black Friday weekend. This includes both standalone players (like the one that was selling in Wal-Mart stores for US$99!) as well as the add-on drive for the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console.

I haven't heard any comparable figures about Blu-ray player sales throughout the weekend, but I'm sure they're similar in some fashion. It will be interesting to see how HD DVD and Blu-ray software titles sold during the weekend, especially since the National Retail Federation claims that books, CDs, DVDs, videos, and video games accounted for 41.7% of purchases that weekend.

As for the format war itself, if this busy, holiday shopping season doesn't put an end to the fight come early 2008, I don't know what will. But I might just have to track down my old math teacher for some help in figuring out which format is actually in the lead.

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