It has been a long and bitter format war, although we all assumed it would be going on for a lot, lot longer! Film companies kept changes sides, money kept changing hands at strategic intervals, and early adopters were sleeping restlessly at night, hoping that their format would triumph over the other.
Finally, the HD-DVD format has gone to meet the disk-shredder in the sky. Toshiba, the company actually making HD DVDs, has chosen to no longer continue developing its format. The first clues were apparently in Las Vegas, where their stand at CES was particularly small and they remained fairly quiet.
HD-DVD had plenty going for it, such as the ability to up-scale DVDs, and the fact that HD-DVDs and HD-DVD drive were considerably cheaper than Blu-Ray alternatives. Toshiba also had two well established and dominant film companies backing it.
Sadly, it all went wrong for them. Firstly, Blu-Ray was distributed to all and sundry in the PS3 console, so there were more Blu-Ray players in circulation. Despite initially poor sales of the PS3 console because of its high price, Sony recovered, and the final nail in the format’s coffin was Microsoft’s choice not to build HD-DVD into the XBOX 360, instead offering it as an optional extra at £99 (depending on where you get it).
Sony also has its own media companies, and may have managed to exert some more influence over the industry as a whole. It eventually reached the point where only one film maker was still using HD-DVD exclusively, so perhaps Toshiba finally saw the writing on the wall and decided to let the format die.
Sony, to be fair, is probably owed a victory. They have lost plenty of format wars in the past, mostly notably the VHS versus Betamax war, and the Minidisc format never took off at all thanks to MP3 players. Sony was much better placed than it was with Betamax to win this format war. Now I’m just waiting for a Blu-ray drive I can add to my XBOX 360…