Play Station 3 – Is it a Blu-ray Trojan Horse?

Written by Charles Arthur of The Guardian on . Posted in Cross media


Sony's Film Sale Back Door Platform

Blu-ray climbing the digital mountainIt certainly looks that way to us - writes Charles Arthur of The Guardian Technical - particularly after talking to Matt Brown, executive vice president of Sony Pictures Europe, whose job it is to persuade us all to buy Blu-ray media. Formerly with Dreamworks, and steeped in films, Brown declares that "the future is high-definition TV" and that the PS3 - which at £425 in the UK is steeply priced for a games console, but comparatively cheap for a high-definition player (Blu-ray players in the UK cost more than £500) - is "the ultimate home entertainment device". All of which you'd expect him to say. But talking to Brown, it's clear that Sony is happy to take its financial lumps in terms of losses in the games console market if it means guaranteeing a win in the high-definition video war. And the best way to do that? Lose money selling the players, and rake it back by selling the "software" - games and especially films. In the long term, Sony has far more to gain from winning the DVD format wars than it stands to lose in the gaming ones, since it could keep making the PS3 for the next decade.


While the PS3 has not given Sony any clear advantage in the games field, it certainly has in the high-definition DVD market. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the HD DVD camp could claim 175,000 players sold in the US, well ahead of Blu-ray. But Sony can now claim a total of 1.8m PS3s sold worldwide (says

Wood thus sounds confident when he claims: "Blu-ray discs are outselling HD DVD by three to one in the US." And, he adds, "if I do a good job then in six months we won't be having a conversation [about formats]. And the PS3 is going to help us do the job ... Potentially, we'll have 10 times more [Blu-ray] players [in the form of PS3s] out there by the end of the year." Projections for Sony by the research company Understanding & Solutions suggest there will be nearly 4m Blu-ray players (including PS3s) installed across Europe by the end of this year, compared to 55,000 HD DVD players; by the end of 2008, it forecasts 13.45m Blu-ray against 1.6m HD DVD drives (which will by then also include computers). For the US, it predicts a smaller gap - although still running 9 to 1 in favour of Blu-ray.

So is it game over for HD DVD? The HD DVD camp said at CES that owners of their players bought an average of 28 discs each, because they had chosen the format, rather than finding it bundled with their games console. Blu-ray owners hadn't bought many discs. But we remember a time when Netscape could claim to have many more people using its browser than Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Then Microsoft bundled the browser, and Netscape went pear-shaped. Someone at Sony has probably remembered their internet history, which says that victory goes to the most widely installed - not necessarily the most widely chosen.

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