Those of you who have been sitting out the hi-def war between Toshiba’s HD-DVD format and Sony’s Blu-Ray format may soon be able to enjoy prettier pictures. The misguided and counterproductive conflict took another inexorable step towards its conclusion this week with Warner Brothers and New Line’s surprising decision to terminate HD-DVD support in 2008 and focus exclusively on Blu-Ray.
Although a conclusion to the format war is undeniably in everyone’s best interest, the Warner announcement nonetheless came out of the clear blue (ahem) sky for supporters of HD-DVD. Warners in particular has been gamely serving up some amazing discs in both high-def formats, including the recent five-disc Blade Runner package, the Harry Potter film series, and Batman Begins. Such an about-face is particularly puzzling now, given the recent spike in HD-DVD hardware sales.
Warner Brothers’ ludicrous press release states that they are switching to exclusive Blu-Ray support in order to “give consumers what they want.” Sure… those of us who bought Batman Begins in HD-DVD surely don’t want to own The Dark Knight in the same format. Likewise, Harry Potter HD-DVD fans are no doubt turning cartwheels over the discovery that they’ll have to buy a Blu-Ray player to own the forthcoming 6th and 7th movies in hi-def. Way to look out for us, guys! Turning our HD-DVD collections into the modern equivalent of laserdiscs is a favor I’ll never be able to repay.
And New Line, while not a huge player in the HD market thus far, owns the rights to the “killer app” that many people have been waiting for: the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The knowledge that Jackson’s much-loved adaptations of Tolkien’s novels will never appear on HD-DVD could be a mortal blow on its own.
I call “bullshit” on the timing. The fact that both companies waited until immediately after the holiday season to make this announcement is ridiculous. A *lot* of people bought HD-DVD players this Christmas, thanks to some drastic price cuts and the belief that future quality titles were on the way. (And they are: David Fincher’s Zodiac, arguably the best film of 2007, will shortly be released as an HD-DVD exclusive, and despite Michael Bay’s incessant whining, Transformers continues to be unavailable on Blu-Ray.)
But the writing is on the wall for the red camp. Losing the support of Warner Brothers and New Line is a blow from which HD-DVD can’t possibly recover, and everyone knows it — even Toshiba. If Warners *really* wanted to give the consumers what they wanted, they would have made this announcement prior to Christmas, thereby ensuring that more people didn’t buy into a terminally ill product line.
Rest in peace, beautiful HD-DVD format. We’ll miss your region-free discs, powerful interactive scripting features, cheaper and easier disc replication, and more reasonable copy protection schemes.
HERE LIES HD-DVD.
MURDERED BY WARNER BROTHERS IN JANUARY, 2008.