Via Norman Wilner, I see that Future Shop has released its Boxing Day flyers online, and – cheap jumbo flatscreen televisions aside – he’s right: the real story of the Boxing Day sale is the prices on the next-gen DVD players.
If you’ve been following the news on next-gen DVD technology, you know that right now the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD is in full swing. Looking at it strictly from an entertainment perspective: Universal, Paramount, Dreamworks and Dimension Films are exclusive to HD-DVD, while Sony, Disney, MGM, Lion’s Gate and Fox are exclusive to Blu-Ray, with Warner Brothers and New Line supporting both formats.
From a technical perspective, Blu-Ray is the more powerful format, but HD-DVD is cheaper to produce and sell. (For a given value of “cheaper”, of course, considering that a pre-discounted list price for an HD-DVD is about $35, compared to about $40 starting list price for a Blu-Ray disc. As with all things Hollywood, the price will only drop when they think they need to drop the price to increase sales, not because their production costs shrink.) Blu-Ray is of course natively supported by anybody willing to shell out for a PS3, but HD-DVD is supported by the XBox 360’s addon drive, which more or less cancels out that advantage.
But if the door crasher sale at Future Shop is any indication, the HD-DVD backers have decided to make their play this year, because you can get a Toshiba HD-DVD player for a hundred bucks, plus free copies of 300 and The Bourne Identity, plus a mail-in offer for five more free discs (which together would cost more than the player itself). The cheapest Blu-Ray player at the sale, in comparison, is $250 with no free discs at point of sale (although they’re coming with mail-away offers for free DVDs as well).
I’m still not saying it’s time to buy a player either way. I’m probably not – after all, I want a region-free player first and foremost, and given the tenacity of the players involved I don’t see the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray going away anytime soon, as stupid and counterproductive as it might be. But if you need a new DVD player anyway and you live in Canada – well, a hundred bucks for a player is pretty good, and seven free movies is seven free movies.